July 1995 Vol. 7, No. 10
Entrenchment or Reform?
Human Rights Developments and the Need
for Continued Pressure
II. THE PATTERN OF ABUSE
III. HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES DURING
COUNTERINSURGENCY OPERATIONS 20
Offensive in the Karen State 21
The Offensive Against Khun Sa 23
IV. THE INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
The Association of
South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) 28
To the State Law
and Order Restoration Council 33
International Community 34
APPENDIX I 37
APPENDIX II 40
"It is not yet the end. There is
still a long way to go and the way might be very, very hard. So please stand
by...Don't think we are there home and dry."
- Aung San Suu Kyi
The release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on July 10, 1995,
a day before the end of her period of detention under Burmese law, was a welcome
move on the part of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).
Her release comes after years of international pressure on the SLORC, including five resolutions by the U.N. General
Assembly and appeals from numerous governments, including the U.S., Japan and members of the European Union (EU).
These governments, and the U.N. secretary-general, were quick to send messages applauding the release, though there were distinct
differences in the response of Western countries, all of whom reacted in a
spirit of "cautious optimism"– as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself put it
– and Asian governments, including Japan and Thailand, who welcomed the move as "substantive
progress." At the same time, diplomats in Rangoon were quick to point out
that the release was a measure of SLORC's confidence
in its strength in the country and its ability to hold down the lid on
dissent. Indeed, it is difficult at this early stage to know whether the
release of Daw Suu will lead to an improvement in the human rights situation in
Burma, or whether it may only lead to further entrenchment as the SLORC
achieves its main aim of increased international investment and economic aid
and, as a result, finds less and less need to heed the calls from the
international community for fundamental reform.
It is perhaps too early to say which road it will
take, but it is certainly far too early to reward the SLORC with further
investment and bilateral or multilateral assistance. "Of course, in the
long run I think we would need international investment, but I don't think we
should rush into this...I want to study the situation carefully before I can
say whether I truly believe that this is the right time for investment,"
said Daw Suu, speaking to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on July
12, 1995. The SLORC itself has highlighted the linkage between rising
levels of international investment and the failure of international efforts to
bring an end to abuses. David Abel, Burma's minister for planning and economic development,
Although some western countries always cite
human rights or democracy, these tools have not been effective because if you
look at the amount of investment, the United Kingdom and the United States are the leading investors in our country.
Indeed, while other members of the National League for
Democracy (NLD)—the political party Daw Suu founded—have been free to meet with
Daw Suu at her home, and the crowds gathering outside her house have thus far
faced no harassment, no other political prisoners have been released. Human Rights Watch/Asia estimates that at least 1,000 political prisoners
remain in Burmese jails, including sixteen members of parliament elected in
1990. Moreover, by July 18,
there had been no contact between Daw Suu
and ranking members of the SLORC. On July 7, just days before the
release, secretary-1 of the SLORC, Gen. Khin Nyunt, gave a speech outlining the
"political, social and economic objectives" of the government in
which he implied that Daw Suu would not be released and that the military
planned to continue running the country.
The following day, the government-run newspaper,
The New Light of Myanmar, carried an
article titled "Destiny of the Nation - No.24," which was a scathing
attack on Daw Suu and her husband, British scholar Michael Aris.
The article alleged that Daw Suu had
"slandered the Tatmadaw [the armed forces] her father had founded to the
point of opposing it, which was not a happy augury. She even misled those who
had been supporting her with their eyes shut." It also implied that in
1990, when the SLORC allowed the general election to take place without any
interference, the NLD was "found to have resorted to unfair means to win
the elections. Mobs coerced voters into casting their ballots to particular
candidates. Whole communities were threatened to vote for
party candidates if they did not want their homes to get burnt
down." The article claimed that the fact that the NLD nevertheless
remained a legally recognized party was "an illustration of
These statements would suggest that Daw Suu and the NLD remain as threats in the eyes of the SLORC
and that there is a long way to go before the human rights situation in Burma will improve.
Even though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
has been released, the overall human rights situation in Burma is worsening. On June 16, 1995, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
announced that it will close its office in Rangoon later in July after the failure of negotiations to
allow the organization access to Burma's detention centers.
Offensives have been renewed against ethnic
minority groups, including the Karenni Nationalities People's Party, which had
signed a cease-fire with the SLORC as recently as March 1995. In
areas where fighting has resumed, tens of thousands of villagers have been forcibly
taken from their homes and fields to work for the army. Many have died
from beatings and exhaustion.
After the fall of the Karen National Union
headquarters in January 1995, a breakaway group of ethnic Karen Buddhists,
called the Democratic Buddhist Karen Organization (DKBO), which has an informal
alliance with the Burmese army, attacked refugee camps in Thailand, killing several refugees and Thai villagers and
abducting scores of others. In a further sign of regression on the human
rights front, discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities across Burma has increased during 1995. These communities have
been forcibly relocated into government-controlled villages, while religious
buildings and land have been confiscated. In Arakan State, from which 270,000 Muslims fled during 1991 and
1992, reports of forced labor and forced relocations of Muslims have continued.
As the SLORC has moved to attract international
investment, at least two million people have been forced to work for no pay
under brutal conditions to rebuild Burma's long neglected infrastructure.
The international community has long recognized that
the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was only
one in a long list of abuses which the SLORC has been called on to
address in successive U.N. resolutions. On December 13, 1994, at the United Nations, member countries passed by
consensus the toughest resolution to date on Burma calling not only for the immediate release of Daw Suu
and all political prisoners but demanding that SLORC undertake a series of
But there has also been an apparent softening in
bilateral relations, with Western
countries becoming the largest investors in Burma.
The foreign minister of Japan announced on July 11 that he was willing to start
talks with the Burmese government on the resumption of official loans and that
he would visit Rangoon as early as August. Japan had already renewed aid to Burma and provided insurance credit for its companies
investing there. China has continued its massive financial and diplomatic
support to the SLORC, and Burma's other neighbors, anxious about
China's dominance, have also sought closer relationships with
the SLORC under a policy of "constructive engagement." This policy is
aimed at increasing economic ties while occasionally calling for further
economic and political reform.
Summary of Recommendations
Human Rights Watch/Asia believes that following the release of Daw Suu, there are several
steps that the SLORC must take in order to improve the human rights situation
in Burma. First, all political prisoners, including
elected representatives, should be unconditionally released. Second, the ICRC
should be granted unrestricted access to Burma's prisoners. Third, laws which restrict freedom of
association, assembly and political participation must be repealed. In
addition, forced labor in all its forms must be
abolished and access by independent monitors permitted to verify this.
We urge the international community to respond to the release of Daw Suu by engaging in dialogue with
SLORC about what specific steps they will take to implement the U.N.'s
resolutions, while at the same time initiating direct, ongoing contacts with
Daw Suu in order to discuss the human rights situation, and strongly supporting
the efforts of the U.N. secretary-general. Any
talks with SLORC should not take place without parallel discussions with Suu
Kyi regarding the human rights situation in Burma. These diplomatic contacts must be accompanied by
internationally coordinated measures to continue
and increase pressure on SLORC to undertake fundamental human rights
reforms. Some of these measures might be announced at the upcoming
meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations
(ASEAN) in Brunei, beginning on July 29. Burmese foreign minister
Ohn Gyaw has accepted an
invitation to attend the meeting as a "guest" of the host country.
These measures should include, for example, a
freeze on all future private investment until and unless forced labor in
Burma has ended; continued suspension of bilateral assistance and a clear
statement from the donor countries of the World Bank that multilateral
assistance cannot be resumed until basic human rights and political reforms are
undertaken and verified; a decision by the International Labor Organization
(ILO) to conduct a Commission of Inquiry into forced labor; and a concerted
effort to stigmatize China for its role as SLORC's
major arms provider.
In addition, the international community should
closely monitor developments in Burma triggered by Daw Suu's
release and should respond promptly and vigorously to any attempts
by SLORC to intimidate, harass, detain or restrict the activities of Burmese
citizens (including Daw Suu's party members and
supporters) seeking to exercise their internationally recognized rights of
freedom of association, expression and assembly. The U.N. Commission on
Human Rights should urgently consider dispatching its Special Rapporteur for Burma to visit the country as soon as possible and should
also explore the possibility of posting a continuing human rights monitoring
presence in Burma.
PATTERN OF ABUSE
Since 1990 Human Rights
Watch/Asia has documented an ongoing pattern of abuses in Burma, including arbitrary
detention, denial of the right of freedom of expression and association as well
as the right of citizens to participate in their government and choose their
own leaders, forced labor, abuses of humanitarian law in the course of military
operations against insurgents, and discrimination against ethnic minorities. The
United Nations Commission on Human Rights has also taken note of the nature and
severity of these abuses. Since 1990, the U.N. Economic and Social Council has mandated a Special Rapporteur on Burma to investigate and report on allegations of human
rights violations. In addition, other specialized U.N. human rights
bodies have reported on a range of human rights violations in Burma.
The International Labor Organization has also
investigated and criticized Burma for violations of ILO Convention No. 29 (Forced or
Compulsory Labor) and ILO Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association).
This international scrutiny has achieved some results,
most clearly in the release of Daw Suu and over 2,000 other political prisoners
since 1992. Reports from the Special Rapporteur and U.S. Representative
Bill Richardson, who were able to visit recently arrested political prisoners
would suggest that there has been a
decrease in the torture of political prisoners in the first days and weeks of
detention, at least in Rangoon. Interviews with refugees and escaped
porters conducted by Human Rights Watch/Asia in
early 1995 suggest that in the Karen State there has also been a decline in the use of women as
porters for the military and a consequent reduction in the number of rapes
committed by the armed forces on front-line duty. This is offset by reports of
soldiers raping young women and girls on forced labor projects in Mon and
Karenni States. However, so long as independent monitoring groups lack free
access to the areas where abuses occur it is impossible to verify how
widespread or long-term these possible improvements are.
"It seems anyone who has contact with
diplomats is being arrested, and the only ones left now are the elderly." - Diplomat 
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was the most prominent political
prisoner in Burma, but she was by no means the only one. As the
daughter of the independence hero Gen. Aung San, she became the leader of the
pro-democracy movement in 1988 and secretary general of the opposition party,
the National League for Democracy (NLD). She was detained in July 1989
under the 1975 State Protection Law, which then entitled the state to detain
for three years without charge or trial any person "who has done, is
doing, or is about to do any act which infringes the sovereignty and security
of the State, or public peace and tranquility." This law, insofar as it
allows for detention without trial, violates international standards of due
In 1992, the SLORC retroactively amended the law
to extend the period of detention by a further two years, once again in
violation of international law, including the provisions established for times
In his statement to the U.N. Commission on Human
Rights in February 1995, the Special Rapporteur on Burma, Prof. Yozo Yokota, said, "according to the Government's own
interpretation of the law, applied to her with retroactive affect, she cannot
be held beyond July 11, 1995." Thus, the
announcement made by the deputy director of military intelligence, Lt. Col.
Kyaw Win, that restrictions on her would be lifted, came the day before her
legal detention ended.
There are many other political prisoners in Burma, detained under equally draconian laws in violation
of international human rights and legal standards. Human
Rights Watch/Asia estimates that as of July 1995 there are at least 1,000 political
prisoners in Burma's jails arrested for exercising their rights to
freedom of expression and association and the right to take part in the
government of the country.
In an interview with the BBC on July 13, 1995, the ICRC representative to Burma, Freidrun Medert, said that the ICRC was "more concerned with
the fate of the other prisoners who are nameless and are being detained in
No international observers have ever had access
to these prisons. Some of the political prisoners have been in jail since
1988, possibly earlier, but others were arrested more recently. Between
April 1992 and July 1995, the SLORC released 2, 246 political
prisoners under Order 11/92 of April 1992 which stated, "Those
detained for political reasons, other than those which will affect national
security, will be released as soon as possible." In February and
March 1995, a further 108 prisoners were released under Section 401 (1) of the
Code of Criminal Procedures.
Many of those released were at the end of their sentences, and the vast majority were people charged
and tried between 1988 and 1992 by military tribunals under martial law
provisions, in violation of their right to a fair trail.
Even as these releases occurred, there have been more
arrests. On February 20, 1995 several students were arrested during the funeral of
U Nu, who was prime minister until the military coup
The students are believed to have started
singing the pro-democracy anthem, Kaba ma kye bu ("The world won't
forgive," a pun on the national anthem) during the funeral procession and
were immediately arrested. On April 28, nine of those arrested, including
three female students, were sentenced to seven years in prison under Section 5
(j) of the Emergency Provisions Act. Two
of them were previously imprisoned in July 1989 at Aung San Suu Kyi's house, where they were working as part of the NLD's youth group, and had been released in 1992. A
further six students were arrested on March 24 in Rangoon, where they had
allegedly obstructed soldiers preparing a route to the Shwedagon
Pagoda three days before Armed Forces Day. It is not known if the students have
Many of those still in detention are believed to have
been sentenced under Article 17/1 of the 1957 Unlawful Associations Act. Under
this article, any association or group can be declared unlawful by the
government, including not only the armed ethnic opposition but also political
parties, student unions, professional groups and Buddhist monk
associations. In November 1989, the SLORC published a list of some
associations considered unlawful, which included the Kachin
Independence Organization (KIO), the Karen National Union (KNU), the New Mon
State Party (NMSP) and the Karenni Nationalities Progressive Party (KNPP).
While cease-fires have been agreed between the SLORC and the KIO (February
1994) and the KNPP (March 1995), bringing them into "the legal fold,"
there has been no formal revocation of their status as unlawful associations,
and their members and supporters continue to face arrest. By contrast, eight groups representing the ethnic Kokang, Wa, Shan, Kachin, Pao and Palaung who signed
cease-fire agreements between March 1989 and April 1991 were legalized by a SLORC
decree in May 1991.
The Political Process
Shortly after taking power on September 18,
1988, the SLORC announced,
under considerable international pressure, that it would allow political
parties to form and would hold an all-party general election. The then chairman
of the SLORC, Gen. Saw Maung, promised that the army would transfer power to
the elected government. By 1990 a total of 233 parties had registered,
though the largest by far was the National League for Democracy (NLD) chaired
by U Tin Oo and with Aung San Suu Kyi as secretary general. These
two, along with many other leaders of the NLD, were already in detention by the
time the election was finally held on May 27, 1990. Nevertheless, the NLD was the clear victor, taking
82 percent of the seats in the People's Assembly. Since then, the
international community has repeatedly called for a transfer of power to those
elected freely and fairly. The SLORC however, declared in July 1990 that
"it can be seen that the wish of the majority of political parties that
contested in the...elections is to draw up a new constitution...Therefore, in
today's situation, the representatives elected by the people are responsible
for drafting a constitution for the future democratic state." All MPs
and members of political parties were required to sign their agreement to this declaration, and between July 1990 and the end of 1991 many
were arrested for refusing to do so.
Sixteen members of parliament elected in 1990 remain
All of them were elected to represent the NLD and
its allied parties, and are among a total of eighty-three elected
representatives who have been detained in Burma since 1990. The majority were arrested in late 1990 and charged under Sections
122, 122-1 and 124 of the Penal Code (high treason) for their part in
attempting to force the SLORC to transfer power by establishing a parallel
government. They were tried and sentenced in summary
trials in closed courts, often inside prisons, under martial law
provisions in violation of their right to a fair trial. Having been
sentenced, in July 1991 the MPs were stripped of their positions by SLORC Order
4/91, which states that anyone convicted of "moral turpitude"
or offenses relating to law and order "ha[s] no right to continue to
be a People's Assembly representative." Furthermore,
a second decree was issued on the same day stating that anyone convicted of
those offenses "shall have no right to stand for election as a People's
Assembly candidate in elections to be held in the future".
By means of these laws, Burma's most able politicians,
many of whom were members of the NLD, have been denied the right to participate
as actors in the political process. In addition to the eighty-three elected
representatives, there are the hundreds of students,
teachers, lawyers, doctors, peasant leaders and others arrested for their
political beliefs since 1988 who will not be permitted to stand for election in
the future. In a further move to restrict political freedom, many of
those political prisoners who were released since April 1992 under Order
11/92, and all of those released under Section 104 (1) of the Code of
Criminal Procedures were forced to sign papers saying that they would not take
part in politics. Since being released, three MPs-elect have been
re-arrested. Two of them, U Khin Maung Swe and U Sein
Hla Oo, were arrested in August 1994. Two months
later they were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment under Section 5(e) of
the Emergency Provisions Act for "writing and distributing false news that
could jeopardize the security of the state." Three other political activists arrested at the same time received
sentences of between seven and fifteen years. The third
MP, U Kyi Maung, was released in March after spending five years in jail.
He was taken in for questioning on June 2, along with five others, but was
reported to have been released on June 8. Press reports of his detention
suggested that he was arrested for meeting with foreign diplomats.
The National Convention
"[I]t is difficult to assume that, in
the National Convention, open and free exchange of views and opinions are
taking place in order to produce a truly democratic constitution." - U.N. Special Rapporteur.
The ongoing National Convention has been billed by the
SLORC as a representative body to draw up the principles of a new constitution,
under a which a new election will be held and the
military will then transfer power to the new government. Despite repeated calls
in U.N. resolutions for the SLORC to give a timetable for the convention, there
is still no sign of the convention coming to an end, two and a half years after
the process began. It appears that the SLORC may prolong the convention
until it has secured cease-fire agreements with all the armed ethnic rebels and
has gained some popularity at home through improvements in the standard of
living of the small but influential middle class. The proceedings of the
convention reveal how closely it is controlled by the SLORC and how it is in
fact the SLORC that is writing the constitution.
In May 1992, exactly two years after the election, the
SLORC announced the formation of the Coordination Meeting for the Convening of
the National Convention, to be guided by a steering committee headed by a SLORC
member and Rangoon division army commander, Myo Nyunt. For two months this
committee discussed how the National Convention would work and who would
attend. In January 1993 the convention
finally opened with 702 delegates, of whom only 106 were elected
representatives. All of the rest were either hand-picked by the SLORC to
"represent" workers, peasants, intellectuals, national races and
service personnel or were "specially invited persons." In
accordance with Announcement No.1/90, the SLORC
stated that the convention would only be drawing up the
"principles" of a new constitution, and the final draft would still
be written, as promised, by the elected representatives. Moreover, the
principles discussed by the delegates had to conform with
the "objectives" of the convention, as defined by the SLORC, which
included the "participation of the Tatmadaw [armed forces] in the national
political leadership role of the State in the future."
To further control the process of the convention, the
SLORC established strict rules for delegates to the convention which
effectively prevent free discussion, even within the convention hall. All
papers presented at the convention are censored by the National Convention
Convening Committee (NCCC) and the
discussions which take place within the convention on a day-to-day basis are
not reported to the public. While the convention is in session, the delegates
have to live in dormitories and are only allowed to leave the Kyaikkesan compound with official permission. The
political parties have complained that they are also not allowed to discuss the
proceedings and their own party policy with other members of their parties. While
some of the martial law provisions of 1988 and 1989 have been repealed,
there has been no formal repeal of paragraph (b)
of SLORC Order 2/88 which forbids gatherings of more than five people. In
August 1993 an NLD representative, Dr. Aung Khin Sint,
and his colleague U Than Hla
were arrested for disseminating speeches delivered to the convention. They were
sentenced to twenty and fifteen years' imprisonment respectively, though Dr.
Aung Khin Sint has since been released. Others
have reported harassment and obstruction of NLD delegates; in one case a
delegate was prevented from buying a train ticket from the Shan State to attend
a session and had to make his way on foot and by bus.
Given these restrictions on discussion within the
convention, it is not surprising that a clear pattern has emerged from the four
full sessions that have been held since January 1993. Each session has opened
with a speech by a member of the NCCC in which "suggestions" have
been made about the particular chapter under discussion. This speech is
reported in the government-controlled media, and the delegates then meet in
their respective groups to discuss the suggestions. Some
weeks or even months later, the chairman of the NCCC, Myo Nyunt, presides over
a plenary session. In three out of the four sessions, the summing-up speech by
the chairman, which purports to be the "agreed" principles, has been
identical to the opening speech. The only issue which the SLORC failed to push
through was the suggestion in June 1993 that the
names of the ethnic states which reflect the majority ethnic population in that
state (Mon, Karen, Shan, Kachin, Chin and Arakan) be changed to historical Pali
or Burmese names.
Underscoring the SLORC's
control of the process, Myo Nyunt explained the SLORC's involvement in the convention in April 1995:
To explain the activities of the National
Convention, the National Convention Convening Work Committee compiled the
proposals presented by the National Convention delegates, scrutinized them, and
has always presented them to the National Convention Convening Committee (NCCC)
for confirmation. The NCCC in turn will also have to seek the approval of
SLORC. The SLORC, which has taken the leadership role and is responsible
for the state, will take the appropriate action as deemed necessary to be
included in the constitution if the basic principles are in compliance with the
To date, the "principles" decided on at the
convention would create a bi-cameral legislature
with a House of Representatives and a House of Nationalities. In both
houses, representatives from the armed forces would have a quarter of the seats
(110 of the 440 seats in the House of Representatives, fifty-six of the 224
seats in the House of Nationalities). However, it is unclear what powers the
two houses will have, as the president of the Union, who must have served
active duty as a member of the armed forces, would have ultimate authority on
At the session of the convention which began in
September 1994, the topic of discussion was the status of
ethnic minorities that had no representation under the 1974 and 1947
The session continued for six months, an
indication of the difficulty of reaching consensus on this issue. On
December 8, 1994, the Wa, Kokang and Palaung, who had signed cease-fire agreements with the
SLORC in 1989 and who are represented at the convention, formed a new alliance,
called the Peace and Democratic Front, in order to press for their common
political and economic demands. In a clear challenge to the SLORC, they also agreed
to cooperate militarily. Despite this open opposition to the proposals, the
concluding remarks of the chairman of the National Convention Convening Work
Committee U Aung Toe, in March 1995, were again identical to his opening
speech. Groups with more than 0.1 percent of the population in any one area
would have "self-administered zones." The Wa,
who had called for the creation of a Wa State, would have a larger
"self-administered area." In both cases, this designation
entitles the groups to one representative in the House of Nationalities.
Reports in the government media show that in speeches to the convention,
representatives of the minorities to be given "zones" and
"areas" voiced dissatisfaction with the proposal, while
representatives of political parties called for a population census to take
place before proposals could be made which should then be put to a national
The SLORC claims that the National Convention is a
truly representative assembly. But while groups which signed cease-fires after
the convention opened have been invited to attend under the "specially
invited persons" category, the degree to which they can participate is not
clear. The KIO represents a large population in the Kachin
State and has an armed force of some 7,000 soldiers, and has refused even to
send observers. Others, like the Karen National Union, which have not
signed cease-fire agreements, are not invited, and the Muslim Rohingyas, who are a significant minority in the Arakan State, are not recognized by the SLORC as an ethnic
group and therefore also have no representation at the convention. Any
groups that sign cease-fires in the future, including the New Mon State Party
which agreed to a cease-fire on June 29, will have no opportunity to discuss
the principles which have been already "agreed" on.
On April 8, 1995, the convention was adjourned by the
NCCC; it will not resume until October 24. When it does reconvene, the SLORC is
likely to push through the last chapters of the constitution so that a new
election can be held. Now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, it is
unclear what role she and her fellow members of the NLD will be able to play in
the writing of the constitution. While the SLORC Announcement 1/90 is still in
effect, in the past two years, the SLORC has dropped all reference to the
principle that the elected representatives would ultimately be the authors of
the new constitution.
In a further move to ensure its political control, the
SLORC formed the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) on
September 15, 1993. The aims of USDA are those of the SLORC: "1. nondisintegration of the union; 2. nondisintegration
of national unity; 3. perpetuation of national sovereignty," with the
additions of "4. commission and vitalization of
national pride," and "5. emergence of a
prosperous, peaceful and modern union." Within months, USDA offices
opened across the country, many of them in town halls and government
offices. Within a year, USDA officials at the annual general meeting
declared that 833,022 people had become members. A large
part of this membership came in the form of mass rallies held in January 1994, which civil servants, school children,
peasants and others were forced to attend. The objectives of the national
convention were presented and "passed" at these rallies by a show of
hands, although participants said they did not understand the implications of
It is clear from these developments that the SLORC has
used every means possible to manipulate the political process and deny the
citizens of Burma their right, as expressed in Article 25 of the ICCPR,
to "take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely
elected representatives." In doing so they have not only
violated the most basic of international human rights standards but also their
own laws. Thousands of people have been arrested for trying to exercise
this right and the right to freedom of association and expression. In
order for those rights to be restored, and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi
to have any impact on the political impasse, many of the laws which are
currently in place, including SLORC Order 4/91 and 10/91, must be repealed.
rights and democracy must be in harmony with the nature of the country and the
people...Thus we are giving priority to create firm infrastructure of basic
rights, such as food, clothing and shelter needs. As long as the infrastructure
is firm, a super structure of human rights can be built stage by stage."
Sr. Gen. Than Shwe 
Forced labor is endemic in Burma. As the SLORC
has opened up the economy to international investors, it has forced civilians
and prisoners to rebuild the country's infrastructure, which was badly
neglected by the previous government. The SLORC claims that these
"development projects" are designed for the long-term benefit of all,
because they will create the infrastructure for improvements in the standards
of living of their people. Human Rights Watch/Asia
estimates that since 1992 at least two million people
have been forced to work without pay on the construction of roads, railways and
bridges across the country. Hundreds have died from beatings, exhaustion,
accidents and lack of medical care. The use of unpaid civilians on these
development projects is a violation of the 1930 International Labor
Organization (ILO) Convention, to which Burma is a signatory. In
violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, forced labor has also
been used for overtly military practices. This includes the use of civilians as
porters for the army, to construct army barracks, and to stand watch on roads
and railways in areas where ethnic rebels are active.
The SLORC continues to insist, in the face of all
evidence to the contrary, that such labor is
"donated" voluntarily by the people as a "noble act of
charity." SLORC officials have claimed to be proud of the spirit of the
people who are "voluntarily cooperating in the various development
projects across the country. These citizens did not even ask for money because
they would consider it an insult." It should
be noted that the main reason given for this spirit of voluntarism is their
common Buddhist culture, in which "the giving of labor is a noble deed
and...the merit attained from it contributes to better
personal well-being and spiritual strength." However,
the 20 percent of the population in ethnic minority areas who are not Buddhist bear the burden of this labor. The SLORC publishes
figures of the numbers who have contributed to individual projects. On
December 15, 1993 the New Light of Myanmar reported that 921,753 people
had contributed to the building of the Pakokku-Monywa
railway. More recently, in their submission to the ILO, the SLORC said
that "799,447 working people...contributed voluntary labor" on the Aungban-Loikaw railway.
The pattern of forced labor has been documented by
Human Rights Watch/Asia since 1990. From the
testimony of people who have worked on such projects, it is abundantly clear
that coercion and force have been used to make
them work. Typically, the local army commander contacts the village
headman, or in urban areas the council chairman, who is told to supply labor
for a certain section of the road or railway. It is then usually left to
the headman to choose which families will work at which times, on a rotating
basis. There is no option to choose not to go; the only alternatives to
going are to pay heavy fines ("porter tax") or
to flee the area. As one woman from the Karen State interviewed by Human
Rights Watch/Asia in January 1995 said, "Sometimes we didn't go because we
were tired, and they came at night and dragged us from our house. My
children were screaming and crying, but I just had to leave them there."
Families have to work until the job is finished, which can be up to a month,
but most jobs take between ten days and two weeks. In some areas, families have
to work on such a basis every month, leaving them little time to earn their
Laborers are often subject to further abuse from the
soldiers who control the project sites. The old and infirm are
particularly vulnerable and have been beaten when they take rests or are
thought to be working too slowly. Human
Rights Watch/Asia learned from reliable sources in Burma that an old man died
from being beaten by an army captain on February 22, 1995, while working on the
Rangoon - Kyaukpyu road in Arakan
State in southwest Burma. At the same site, twelve others died during
December 1994 and January 1995 from fevers that were not treated. Sources in
the Kachin State, in northern Burma, in late 1994
reported that some 3,000 people were taken from Putao
to work in a very remote area on the Putao-Sumprabum
road. After walking for six days to reach the site, they found that the
rice supplies which had been promised by the army had not arrived, and they had
to walk back. Scores of people died on the journey from malaria and other
diseases, exacerbated by a lack of food. Nevertheless, the project has
continued, and thousands of people were still working there in May 1995. In the
northwest, a recent visitor to the Chin State reported that a woman was killed
while working on the Pakokku-Kalemyo railway line
after she had stopped working twice to feed her young baby. The woman had
been forced to take her baby with her to the site as
all her relatives were also working on the railway. In the south,
refugee relief workers from the Burma Border Consortium report that two to
three families a week continue to arrive at the Thai border in June 1995,
escaping forced labor on the Ye-Tavoy railway.
The ILO has investigated the practice of forced labor
in Burma under Convention 29.
In November 1994 a committee of the
ILO found: "[T]he exaction of labor and services, in particular porterage service, under the Village Act and the Towns Act
is contrary to the Forced Labor Convention, 1930 (No. 29), ratified by the
government of Myanmar in 1955." The committee called on the SLORC to
"ensure that the formal repeal of the powers to impose compulsory labor be
followed up in practice and that those resorting to coercion in the recruitment
of labor be punished."
In June 1995, the report of the ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of
Conventions and Recommendations investigated the case further and threw out the
SLORC's attempts to justify forced labor under the
criteria of the convention.
Peoples of different races and religions
should not mix....[O]nly if
there is one race and one religion will our country be prosperous and peaceful.
- Lt. Gen. Myo Nyunt.
At least one-third of Burma's population, that is,
about fifteen million people, belong to ethnic minorities. In addition to the
large ethnic groups, the Mon, Karen, Shan, Kachin,
Chin, and Rakhine, within which there are dozens of
sub-groups, there are also significant populations of immigrants of Chinese and
South Asian origin.
Whereas the ethnic Burman population is
overwhelmingly Buddhist, the ethnic minorities, with the exception of the Shan,
Mon and Rakhine, tend
to have large Christian or Muslim minorities within them. The degree of
integration of ethnic minorities differs greatly but in general depends on
geographic location: those minorities based in remote highland areas (many
sub-groups of the Karen, the Chin and Kachin) are
least integrated and most Christian, whereas the lowland Karens
as well as the Mon and the Shan tend to be more integrated. All the
ethnic groups have had armed groups which claim to represent them. The
coincidence of ethnicity, religion and armed insurgency has meant that allegations
of religious persecution or racial discrimination are often combined.
Since those ethnic minorities which are also religious minorities live in the
remotest parts of Burma, it has also meant that there has been little
information about the situation in their areas. Nevertheless, in his report of
1993, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination
wrote: "[T]he concrete cases concerning the freedom of religion by the
members of the Muslim and Christian faiths merits an investigation that would
identify the persons, locations and situations concerned, which has not been
Over the past three years there have been indications
of an increasingly intolerant SLORC attitude towards the ethnic and religious
minorities, albeit at a time when the government has professed a policy of "national reconciliation." Without
going as far as calling Buddhism the state religion, the SLORC has enacted a
clear policy to promote Buddhism in Burma, both in order to enhance the
legitimacy of the military government and to forge "national
solidarity." In response to the 1993 report of the Special Rapporteur on
Religious Intolerance, the SLORC claimed that it "is prudent and careful
in taking measures so that there is no discrimination against other religious
faiths...For this reason, a separate Ministry of Religious Affairs...was
established in 1992." The statement did not add that the religious
affairs ministry is located in the grounds of the World Peace Pagoda (Kaba Aye) in Rangoon, a compound which also serves as the
home of the most senior committee of Buddhist monks, the Sangha
Committee. Nor did he mention that one of the main functions of the
Ministry of Religious Affairs is the propagation of Buddhism, both nationally
and internationally, through the publication of Buddhist scriptures and the
establishment of Buddhist missionary schools in ethnic minority areas.
The SLORC policy of promoting Buddhism as an essential
facet of being a "true" Burman, has led to discrimination on ethnic
and religious grounds. Human Rights Watch/Asia has received information
concerning incidents of discrimination against Christian ethnic minorities from
the Chin State, northern Sagaing division, and
Mandalay. The Chin State, north of Arakan State, is one of the poorest and most remote parts of Burma, bordering Mizoram in India and the Chittagong hills of Bangladesh. An estimated 70 percent of the one million Chin
(also known as Zo) are Christian, with the remainder
being animists or Buddhists. The local rebel front is the Chin National Front
(CNF), which was formed in 1985. In May 1993, the head of the Sangha Maha Nayaka
committee visited eight towns in the Chin State, opening new Buddhist missionary schools and urging the"people to practice meditation for mental and
In 1995, a visitor to the Chin state noted that
several crosses had been knocked down over the past two years and that
missionaries promoting "Chin Christianity in One Century" had been harassed and prevented from travelling freely within Chin State. In January 1995, a Christian evangelist, Pu Pum Khan Thang,
was arrested in Tedim market, allegedly for having
been the source of a Christian picture book found in the market.
In northern Sagaing
division, there have been reports of forced conversions since the arrival of a particularly active army battalion, led by Maj. Khin
Soe, in October 1994. The population of this
area is largely Naga, the majority
of whom are Christian. In December 1994, the people of Konkailon village were ordered to demolish their church and
construct a Buddhist monastery in its place. The following month, villagers
from Kokailon, Kuki, Nurnitmumpi and Pansat were
forced to accept sila (Buddhist vows) from
monks who had been brought in by the army to occupy church buildings.
church-owned property, including cemeteries, has been confiscated by the
government. A Danish tourist who visited the city in February 1995 spoke
to a Christian woman who described how she had had to exhume the bodies of her
father and other relatives from a cemetery on the road to Maymyo.
"We had to dig up the graves and take all the bones to another place. Of
course, we couldn't do this ourselves, for it is a sin, so we had to pay other
people 2,500 kyats to have the bones...put in another place, a big tomb. Now
there is a People's Park there. The old Protestant cemetery is a soccer field,
and our Catholic cemetery is a park." The tourist, who wished to remain
anonymous, went to see the site where the cemeteries had been and saw that the
area was now a children's playground and football ground, both of which were
Of all the minority groups, Burma's Muslims of South Asian origin
have probably suffered the worst discrimination. In Burma anyone of Indian origin is known as Kala, a label which is often used a term of racial
Under Burma's citizenship law, many Burmese of Indian origin are
denied full citizenship rights.
The kinds of discrimination they face under this
law are broad: their freedom of travel within Burma is restricted; they are ineligible for promotions in
the civil service; and the kinds of abuses outlined above tend to be worse for
Indians. For example, Human Rights Watch/Asia has noted a disproportionately
high number of Burmese Indians among escaped porters we have interviewed since
1990. One man from an Indian quarter in Rangoon was taken from a popular Indian tea shop in January
1995 and made to work as a porter for the army. All the men sitting in the
shop, all of whom were Indian, were also taken. Whereas
only an estimated one million of the forty-three million people in Burma are of Indian origin, six of the fifty porters
interviewed by Human Rights Watch/Asia on that occasion were Indian.
While all Indians are likely to experience
discrimination, the Muslims among them are particularly targeted. In late
1994, the entire Muslim population of a village in Yamethin
township, near Mandalay, was ordered to relocate. In March 1995,
Muslims from the Three Pagodas Pass area opposite Thailand's Kanchanaburi district
were reported to have been forbidden to hold religious gatherings under SLORC
Order 2/88, which bans public meetings of more than five people.
Human Rights Watch/Asia has also received reports of
continuing abuses against Muslims in Arakan State in 1994 and 1995. Forced relocations have increased, moving Muslims from other parts of Arakan to form enclaves in Buthidaung
and Maungdaw townships, which already have majority
• In July 1994, over 500 Muslims from Nga Let village tract in Minbya township, Akyab (Sittwe) division were woken early in the morning by the
army and forced onto boats which took them close to the Bangladesh border in Maungdaw
• Between November 1994 and February 1995 over 1,500 Muslim villagers from four villages in Mrauk Oo township, Akyab division
were similarly taken by boat to Maungdaw.
• In late 1994, 150 households from Min Pya and 350 households from Myo Haung
townships were also moved to Maungdaw. 
• On March 17, 1995 the villagers of Upper and Lower Pike Thee villages
were given orders to relocate to Buthidaung township. The order was signed by the Akyab district Law and Order Restoration Council (LORC)
chairman and said that if the villagers did not move, they would be dealt with
"according to the immigration law." The two villages comprised
over 3,000 people, all of whom were Muslims but not necessarily Rohingyas, and none
of the villagers had fled to become refugees. On March 22, officials from
the local LORC tried to start the relocation but faced resistance from the population
who staged demonstrations, saying they would rather die than leave their
village. Village elders sent petitions to the regional military
commander, as well as to the local LORC, and held meetings to discuss the
issue. According to the latest information we have received, as of May
1995, the issue had not been resolved and the village is virtually under siege
by the military.
The continuing abuses against Muslims in the Arakan State are of great concern, coming
at a time when the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is repatriating
and resettling the 270,000 Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh in 1991 and 1992. In its June 1995 Bulletin,
the UNHCR claimed that it is "satisfied that there is no discrimination
against returnees in Myanmar, and that UNHCR's
presence and access can ensure the safety of those who repatriate." The
reports from Arakan State outlined above would suggest that while the returnees
may be safe at present, human rights abuses against Rohingyas
who stayed in Burma and non-Rohingya Muslims in Arakan have continued. The Bulletin also commented
on the use of forced ("compulsory") labor, which "continues to
be a nation-wide practice in Myanmar. The UNHCR has intervened repeatedly on the question
of returnees being called for compulsory labor, and feels it has succeeded in
reducing significantly the burden for the local population and the returnees.
The authorities have agreed to limit compulsory labor in Rakhine State to a maximum of four days of work from every family
per month." This is clearly a hard-won compromise, but it is one which is
nevertheless unacceptable. The fact that forced labor takes place across the
country does not justify the practice in any one area. Moreover, it was
not only the onerous nature of forced labor in Arakan
which provoked the flight of 270,000 Muslims, but the beatings, often resulting
in deaths, and which were often racially motivated, by soldiers overseeing
forced labor projects.
With a heavy military presence in the area and
the SLORC rushing to complete some 1,200 new miles of roads and several major
bridges in Maungdaw and Buthidaung
alone, there is every likelihood that Rohingyas and other residents of these townships will fall
victim to further abuses. The UNHCR does not reveal how it will ensure that such
mistreatment does not recur, given that it does not have free access to all
parts of Buthidaung, nor how the periods of labor will
be monitored. Human
rights groups have not been allowed access to Arakan
to monitor abuses; in October 1994 Human Rights
Watch/Asia requested to send a mission to Arakan and
to the refugee camps in Bangladesh. Neither SLORC nor the Bangladesh government responded to the request.
The Rohingyas and all other
ethnic and religious minorities will remain vulnerable so long as they are not
officially recognized as citizens of Burma. Burma introduced a new Citizenship Law in 1982, and all
residents were required to apply for identity cards under this law. Travel
restrictions on the Rohingyas and a lack of public
awareness and education (an estimated 40 per cent of Rohingyas
are illiterate) meant that only a small proportion of them registered between
1982 and 1988. According to government figures, by December 1992 only
845,000 people out of 2,400,000 in Arakan State had applied, by far the lowest percentage in the
country. Of those, 227,000 had still not received identity cards, a figure
second only to the Irrawaddy Division. Those few
Rohingyas who did receive ID cards were classed as
naturalized citizens, the last of three types of citizenship (the others being full
citizens and associate citizens). As naturalized citizens, residents of Burma face restrictions on freedom of travel and land
ownership, and under the 1984 Burma Act, the Council of State may revoke the
citizenship, associate citizenship or naturalized citizenship of anyone except
a citizen by birth.
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES DURING COUNTERINSURGENCY OPERATIONS
"I am gravely concerned at the
continued reports of forced porterage, forced labor,
forced relocation, arbitrary killings, beatings, rapes and confiscation of
property by the army soldiers" - U.N. Special Rapporteur.
Undoubtedly the worst abuses against ethnic minorities
have taken place in the context of Burma's ongoing insurgencies. Armed ethnic rebels
have been fighting the Rangoon government since the first year after independence
from Britain in 1948. In the 1970s the Burmese army
intensified efforts to pressure the civilian population into ending their
support for the rebels. Soldiers committed human rights abuses with impunity,
and communities were constantly uprooted and forced to move into areas under
government control, with devastating consequences for the economic and cultural
life of the minorities. Since 1989, the SLORC has sought military cease-fires
with some of the ethnic rebels, bringing a kind of peace to the areas under
their control. By March 1995, when the Karenni Nationalities Peoples
Party (KNPP) announced their cease-fire, only the Karen National Union (KNU),
the Mong Tai Army (MTA), the Chin National Front
(CNF), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), and the Burman All Burma Students
Democratic Front (ABSDF) remained at war with the government. On June 29, it
was announced that the NMSP had signed a cease-fire agreement. As this report
goes to press, full details of the terms of this cease-fire have yet to emerge. However,
on July 3, the KNPP cease-fire collapsed, and by July 10, heavy fighting was
still being reported in their area.
Where fighting continues, abuses by the SLORC consist
of arbitrary arrest and executions of suspected rebels or rebel sympathizers,
attacks on civilian locations, detention of civilians to use as porters, and
forced relocations. Forced portering is the
most widespread of these abuses. In the period between November 1994 and
June 1995, thousands of porters have been taken
to the front line in the offensives against the KNU and the MTA, and hundreds
Civilians fleeing the fighting in the Karen
state have been attacked in refugee camps in Thailand by a group allied to the SLORC, reportedly accompanied
by soldiers of the Burmese army. These abuses are violations of the 1948
Geneva Conventions, which the SLORC signed in 1992.
The Renewed Offensive in the Karen State
In December 1994, as
SLORC representatives held discussions about national reconciliation at the
U.N. with officials from the secretary-general's office, preparations were
being made in the Karen State for a military offensive against the KNU. In
mid-December, a breakaway group of Buddhist Karens
from the KNU formed the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization (DKBO), in
protest against discrimination by the Christian leadership of the KNU and human
rights abuses including killings and rape by a squad
of the KNU's Seventh Brigade. From the first,
the DKBO was supported in the SLORC-controlled media and on the ground by the
local Burmese army.
Indeed, the headquarters of the DKBO at Myaing Gyi Ngu
was just across a small river from a SLORC army
camp. Escaped porters interviewed by Human
Rights Watch/Asia in January and February 1995 in refugee camps in Thailand described how they had been taken from the towns and
villages from October 1994 onwards, long before the DKBO was formed. With
the help of the DKBO, the SLORC took the KNU's
northern strongholds at Manerplaw and Kawmura in just two months.
Since the fall of KNU bases in the north, abuses
against civilians have continued. Porters described
being subject to physical abuse and inhumane treatment from the moment
of capture. All but one of the fifty porters interviewed by Human Rights
Watch/Asia had been severely beaten by the soldiers when they slipped or fell
from exhaustion, and all had witnessed the deaths of fellow porters. As
the SLORC and DKBO (who were reported to number around 2,000 troops by June
1995) sought to consolidate their position and move further south to the
territory of the KNU's Sixth Brigade, the taking of
porters continued. According to a June 1995 Amnesty International report, porters taken in March and April 1995 described the
same kinds of abusive treatment, and all had witnessed the killings of fellow
porters along the way.
On June 13, 1995 press reports from Thailand
quoted Thai military authorities as saying that more than 200 Burmese civilians
from the area around the town of Myawaddy had been
rounded up to serve the Burmese army as porters in three days.
Refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch/Asia in
January also told of forced relocations to the headquarters of the DKBO at Myaing Gyi Ngu
and forced recruitment into the DKBO. Because no human rights groups or
reporters have been allowed access to the SLORC-controlled areas in the Karen State, there have been few reliable reports of the situation
there. However, Human Rights Watch/Asia has learned that forced relocations
have continued and have spread to a wider area in the northern part of the Karen State. While Christians were not expressly forbidden
to join the DKBO, they were not encouraged. In
the first week of June, refugee relief workers reported that over 500 refugees
had arrived in Thailand from
Papun township in northern Karen State claiming to have fled forced recruitment.
The forcible relocation of civilians inside Burma has coincided with attacks on refugee camps in Thailand. Following the fall of the KNU bases, at least
8,000 refugees fled from KNU-held territory,
crossing the Moei and Salween rivers which mark the border with Thailand and joining the 70,000 Karen and Mon villagers
already in camps along the border. However, the SLORC and the DKBO made several
incursions into Thailand on their heels. Between January and May 1995,
eleven refugees and Thai citizens were killed, scores of refugees were
abducted, and hundreds of others were forced back into Burma, and three camps were razed. There has been no news
of the refugees who were abducted, many of whom were Buddhist members of the
KNU, and Human Rights Watch/Asia remains concerned for their safety. In tactics
not unlike those of the SLORC in rebel-held areas of the country, the attacks
appear to have been designed to frighten the refugees into returning to Burma, specifically to Myaing Gyi Ngu. In the first and only
interview by a DKBO member, Captain Tu Na told Thai
journalists, "We have attacked and razed the camps. If we did not do so,
then the refugees would not return home...We want them all to come back. All
will have to return."
His words echoed leaflets distributed widely in
the camps by the DKBO which had earlier threatened refugees with attacks if
they did not return to Burma. Since the middle of May these incursions have
ceased, as the Thai army has built up its presence in the area. At the same
time, however, the SLORC and DKBO have added troops along the western banks of
the Salween, in some areas just yards from refugee camps, and it
has been reported that DKBO troops have joined the SLORC in their positions at Three Pagodas Pass and in the Tenasserim
district where the KNU's Fourth and Sixth Brigades
On June 14, 1995 the commander in charge of military operations in the
northern Karen State, Maj. Gen. Maung Hla, was transferred
from his post and given the office of minister in the newly-created Immigration
and Population Ministry. Three other regional commanders were also
changed on this day, and observers believe the moves, while technically
constituting promotions, were made in order to curb their independence. Maung
Hla had commanded the offensive against the KNU in
early 1993, during which thousands of porters, including women, girls, and
prisoners, were held for up to three months in front-line positions. Scores of
porters died in the cross-fire, and the women were frequently raped. It
was also Maung Hla who gave the order for a
unilateral cease-fire in April 1993, following heavy losses on the government
side. As far as Human Rights Watch/Asia is aware, no disciplinary action
has been taken against Maung Hla.
The Offensive Against
In January 1995, the SLORC vowed to crush the Muang Tai Army (MTA), led by the internationally notorious
drug baron Khun Sa. The
announcement followed a failed attempt to crush Khun Sa the year before. Burmese state television described the
offensive as the government "fighting the danger to all mankind—narcotic
drugs—from all the directions by employing all kinds of methods...now the
production of heroin, a danger for the world population, will be reduced by
two-thirds because the Defense Services personnel sacrificed hundreds of
lives." Khun Sa has
been indicted in the United States for drug trafficking activities, and the offensive
against him has had the support of the U.S. State Department. The SLORC
has also been supported by Thailand, where authorities had kept the border closed since
June 1994 in order to prevent food and supplies from reaching
headquarters at Ho Mong. The closure of the border
has meant that villagers from the area fleeing the fighting have been prevented
from entering Thailand, in contravention of international law. Furthermore,
the area's inaccessibility has made it very difficult to gain firsthand
information about human rights abuses occurring in the course of this
As in other areas, there have been reports of the
seizure of hundreds of men to work as porters for the Burmese army as the SLORC
increased its military presence. In May 1994, when some villagers were
able to escape into Thailand, they reported that up to 5,000 people from Keng Tung and Tachilek
towns had been seized by the army to work as porters. In March 1995, an
escaped prisoner told a journalist that he was one of a group of 500 inmates
from Mandalay jail who had been taken, on the day they were
supposed to be released, by helicopter to the Shan State and forced to carry weapons and ammunition for the
Internally displaced people from villages between Tachilek and Kengtung, who were
prevented from entering Thailand to seek refuge by the Thai authorities, were
interviewed by a foreign aid worker on June 22, 1995.
One man told how he and eight friends had been
taken from their village to work as porters for the army in March 1995.
They had to travel with the soldiers, carrying heavy mortar shells, for two
months before they eventually escaped. He witnessed one of his friends kicked
to death by soldiers when he could no longer carry his load.
There have also been reports of attacks on civilian
villages near places where the MTA had attacked government positions. In
January, aerial bombardment west of Kengtung resulted
in entire villages fleeing to the border. One man interviewed by the aid worker
showed scars on his arm and neck from shrapnel which hit his home. In March,
the MTA launched a surprise attack on the Burmese army post just outside Tachilek, a town which is just the other side of the narrow
Mae Sai river which marks
the border between Burma and Thailand. As the MTA troops retreated, they went through a
village, Pongthune, on the edge of the town. This
village was targeted by the Burmese army, and several houses were razed. One
woman, speaking to a journalist in Thailand after the fighting said,"Burmese
soldiers attacked and burned down this village because most of the people
living here are Shan." Thai intelligence sources told reporters that
two men were executed during the incident, "because they were suspected of
collaborating with the MTA."
Forced relocations also appear to have taken place
throughout the Shan State. In January 1995, Human Rights Watch/Asia received
reports from independent sources inside the Shan State about the relocation
of more than thirty villages in the Loikham, Nam Khai, Man Lun, Man Mak and Bang Shau townships
and forcibly moved into five large villages in government-controlled
areas. While the move was intended to cut off aid to Khun
Sa, the embargo affected the Kachin,
Akha and Lisu ethnic
minorities most. The move caused great of hardship to those involved and
increased the tension between the Shan and Kachin in
the area. Some 700 villagers who fled from southwest Kengtung
township, where the most intense fighting occurred in
March, were able to reach the Thai border and reported that troops had raided
their villages taking livestock, rice supplies and any valuables they found
before razing all buildings.
Since May 1995 there has been a lull in the fighting
in the Shan State. While the difficulty of access means that it is hard
to determine the status of the offensive in July 1995, it appears that the
government has not been as successful as it claimed it would be. While Khun Sa has lost considerable territory
in the south, he has held on to his base at Ho Mong.
As with the commander responsible for the Karen offensive,
Eastern Commander Maj. Gen. Saw Tun was also
removed from his post on June 15 and has become the minister for construction.
Again, he has not been made accountable for abuses
committed by the soldiers under his command.
In areas where the SLORC has attempted to forge
"national reconciliation" by signing cease-fire agreements with
fifteen ethnic rebel groups since 1989, human rights abuses have continued to
be reported, and there has been no move on the part of the SLORC to engage in
political discussions with these groups to reinforce the military
cease-fire. Under the terms of the cease-fires, ethnic groups have been
allowed to keep their arms and soldiers and in many cases have increased the
number of soldiers under their command. These agreements do not represent
a long-term solution to the conflict which has plagued the country since
1948. The Wa, Palaung
and Kokang expressed their dissatisfaction with the
agreements when they formed the Peace and Democratic Front; the Kachin Independence Organization has also issued several
press releases since their cease-fire expressing dissatisfaction that the
expected process of political dialogue has not begun. One of the most recent
cease-fires only lasted three months; on June 28, 1995, the KNPP issued a statement alleging repeated
violations of the cease-fire that they signed with the SLORC in March 1995. The
statement says that the SLORC has continued to collect "porter fees"
and arrest men to work as porters and has increased its military presence in
the KNPP area by an additional 2,000 soldiers. Given these developments,
"should SLORC continue breaking the cease-fire agreement, and should it
refuse to withdraw the troops...it will be the SLORC, and not the KNPP that
will have to assume the responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities."
Two days later the BBC reported that fighting had broken out near one of the
border posts from which the SLORC had ordered the KNPP to withdraw.
Without a lasting political settlement, it is
likely that the kinds of abuses which have occurred in the context of
counterinsurgency operations will continue.
THE INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
The United Nations
The United Nations General Assembly
and Commission on Human Rights have adopted increasingly strong
resolutions on Burma by consensus. The resolutions have largely been based on the
evidence submitted by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Burma, Professor Yozo Yokota, who
has conducted research missions in Burma every year since 1991. The
government of Burma has cooperated to the extent that since 1993 Professor Yokota has been
able to visit some prisons and meet some political prisoners. The SLORC
clearly wants to be seen as somewhat responsive to the U.N.'s concerns, while
failing to implement most of its recommendations. Professor Yokota has
complained that every meeting he has in Burma is attended by government representatives or
otherwise monitored, and in his February 1995 report, he also criticized the
government for harassing or otherwise threatening individuals who may have
wished to meet him.
It will take further international pressure to
ensure that the release of Aung San Suu Kyi does not become another gesture
unsupported by genuine progress.
The most recent resolution at the General Assembly
called on the U.N. secretary-general to "continue his discussions with the
Government of Myanmar in order to assist in the implementation of the present
resolution, as well as in its efforts to achieve national reconciliation." In
accordance with the wishes of all the member states of the United Nations, the
Secretary General sent a team of negotiators from his political affairs
department to Burma in February 1995.
The details of this mission were presented to
the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Despite repeated requests, the representative, Mr.
Alvaro de Soto, was not permitted to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, and
the report suggests that no progress was made in discussions about the
political process. The government told the representative that there
would be further talks with Aung San Suu Kyi and that "they saw no
difficulty in agreeing to a memorandum of understanding with the ICRC."
There is no sign that discussions with Daw Suu have
yet begun, and the ICRC announced recently that their negotiations had
failed. Acknowledging the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Boutros-Ghali said
that, "this is an important step which I hope will be followed by many others,
toward the establishment of a multi-party system in Myanmar."
However, it remains the case that the dialogue
between SLORC and the secretary-general's office, conducted at the level of
Boutros-Ghali's political staff, is unlikely to produce any tangible results
absent greater pressure on SLORC from the U.N. member states, including Burma's
regional neighbors and key trade and investment partners.
China is Burma's biggest ally and supplier of arms, soft loans and
Since 1988, China has supplied at least $1.4 billion worth of arms to Burma, including two deals in November 1994 worth $440 million. But Beijing has never revealed the precise details of its arms
shipments to Burma. The relationship was enhanced by the visit to
Rangoon of Chinese Premier Li Peng in December 1994,
who said his trip was "aimed at further promoting mutual understanding and
friendship to a new level, strengthening good neighborly relations, and
boosting mutually beneficial cooperation." Li Peng did not bring up the detention of
Aung San Suu Kyi or any other human rights abuses during his talks, saying that
was an "internal affair of Burma. Unlike western countries, China doesn't interfere in the domestic affairs of
At Burma's 1995 Armed Forced Day celebrations in March, a
troop of gymnasts and musicians from China's People's Liberation Army were the only
On June 22, 1995, The New Light of Myanmar reported
that no less than three separate delegations from Burma, including officials
from the Foreign and Defense Ministries, were on missions to China. These
"good neighborly relations," however, have been disquieting for Burma's other neighbors, notably India, and have prompted the ASEAN countries and Japan to seek to increase their own influence in Burma.
The move towards a more hard-line stance by the SLORC
seems to have coincided roughly with the visit by Li Peng,
which may have led Burma's generals to conclude that they could afford to pay
the price of U.N. condemnation so long as Beijing kept the arms and trade
flowing. In addition, China's success in muting international criticism
of its own human rights record by attracting Western trade and
investment may have served as an encouraging object lesson to SLORC, which has
enthusiastically embraced a similar strategy. The SLORC was reportedly
elated by President Clinton's decision in May 1994 to "delink"
human rights and China's Most Favored Nation trading status.
Chinese officials, including Li Peng,
have repeatedly stressed that China is "opposed to hegemonism
and will never engage in hegemonistic activities –
actually have not stationed a single soldier abroad." However,
China has used its relationship with Burma to open up markets for Chinese goods in the region
and a strategically important trade route through to the Indian Ocean. China is building a road network (with substantial soft
loans to Burma) from Kunming to Mandalay and has broached the idea of a highway from Calcutta to Beijing. Local residents have told Human Rights
Watch/Asia that Chinese engineers are working on bridges in Arakan State to build a highway connecting Dhaka
and Rangoon. Despite the loans and technical assistance
from China, these roads, like all others in Burma, are being constructed through the use of forced
labor. There are also agreements with Thailand to build roads which would connect Chiang Mai to Kunming through Burma and Laos. Most worrying for India, are the persistent rumors of Chinese naval bases on
the Burmese-owned Coco and Hainggyi Islands in the Andaman Sea, just thirty miles off India's coast.
Burma's relationship with China is also a source of disquiet within the SLORC
leadership. Prior to 1988, Burma maintained a cordial but distant relationship with China, which was always considered a military threat,
especially until 1978 when China ended its military and economic support to the
Communist Party of Burma.
Even as the friendship has developed, alongside
it there has been unease at the Chinese "takeover" of northern Burma as Chinese merchants have flooded into Mandalay. Locally, this is a cause of increasing tension, as
land prices have soared and Burmese have been forced out into the suburbs. In
August 1993, a car driven by a Chinese man ran over and killed a Burmese
student on a bicycle; only a swift response by the Burmese army prevented a
full-scale riot as locals attacked the Chinese "aggressor." Three
Burmese were arrested in the melee. Now most of the shops signs in Mandalay are in Chinese, there are Chinese-run karoake bars and Chinese-run hotels with all-night bars and
young Burmese "hospitality girls." There is also dissatisfaction in
the quality of Chinese goods, from tea cups to weaponry and construction works.
Some members of the SLORC, apparently led by Vice-Chairman Gen. Maung Aye and
Secretary-2 Gen. Tin Oo, appear happy to continue the dependence on China, but others are more wary, fearing further popular
unrest and China's intentions towards Burma as a "colony" state. Since the
beginning of 1995, it would seem that the former group have
been in the ascendancy within the SLORC.
China's deep and complex relationship with Burma has led other Asian governments, including Japan and the members of ASEAN, to emphasize the positive
elements in their respective policies towards Burma in order to offset SLORC's
growing reliance on Beijing. These governments also tend to downplay human
rights concerns or policies that would exert serious pressure on SLORC.
At the U.N., the prospect of a Chinese veto (as a permanent member of the
Security Council) has discouraged governments from attempting to impose a
mandated arms embargo against Burma.
India's response to this alleged threat has been to
increase its commercial interests in Burma, while at the same time continuing behind-the-scenes
support for exiled dissidents and the pro-democracy movement. The issue
of Chinese naval presence became public in August 1994, when three Chinese
trawlers, operating under license from Burma, were caught off the Indian coast with detailed
charts and tracking equipment. The trawlers and their crew were released nearly
four months later.
As they were being released, All India Radio announced
that "relations between India and Burma are back on the right track" with the signing of
an agreement to increase economic cooperation. This
agreement was followed by others throughout 1995, the most significant being an
agreement in April to reopen official border trade – for the first time in
In an attempt to address Indian fears over the
Andaman Sea, on May 25 1995, India, Burma and Thailand ratified an agreement to
delineate their territorial waters there; ratification had been pending since
1993. As a result of this increased cooperation between the two countries,
Burma provided limited assistance in May 1995 for three
military operations against Assamese rebels seeking independence from India.
However, as these operations were underway, in a clear signal
to the SLORC that India still supports democratic reform in Burma, on May 8 the Council for Cultural Relations, chaired
by Vice-President K.R.Narayanan, awarded the coveted
Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding to Aung San Suu
Kyi. On July 10, as news spread of Aung San Suu Kyi's
release, the Indian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "India notes with great satisfaction the step taken by the
The Association of South East Asian
ASEAN has had a long courtship with Burma, which has not run a smooth course. Following the
coup in 1988, Thailand was the first country to send
official delegations to Burma, sealing lucrative logging deals and setting the pace
for the "constructive engagement" policy that all ASEAN countries
have followed. Under this policy, the rapidly developing economies of the
region took the opportunities arising under Burma's "open door" economic policy, claiming
that this kind of economic support and diplomatic engagement would, eventually,
bring about political change in Burma. Although Thailand initiated this policy, it has not been the main
beneficiary, in terms of both political and economic relations. Indeed,
as the SLORC's hard-line policy became apparent in
1995, there has been a distinct souring of relations between Thailand and Burma, and the SLORC has sought to forge a closer trade and
diplomatic relationship with Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia instead.
Abandoning a long-held policy of a "buffer
zone" of ethnic rebels along its border in favor of potentially vast
economic deals, Thailand has interpreted "constructive engagement" to
mean that it would no longer support Burma's enemies. During 1993 these
groups suddenly faced arrest, harassment, restrictions in travel, and the
closure of all offices in Thailand. The crackdown on Burmese dissidents and ethnic
rebels was seen as directly linked to economic deals, especially a lucrative
natural gas pipeline which would supply Thailand with cheap energy from Burma's Andaman oil and gas fields. The pipeline would have
to be built through territory which, in 1993, was still in the hands of the Mon
and Karen rebel armies.
Thai officials, especially representatives of
the National Security Council, have been using these measures to
"encourage" the rebel groups to enter into cease-fire agreements with
the SLORC. However, by July 1995 it seemed that Thailand's efforts to prevent rebels getting arms and other
support were insufficient to appease the SLORC.
The greatest threat to Thai-Burmese relations came in
January 1995, soon after the fall of Manerplaw, when
armed groups of DKBO and SLORC soldiers crossed into Thailand to attack refugees. In the first incident to involve
Thai citizens, on February 23, a group of twenty armed men stopped a truck
transporting refugees from one camp close to the Burma border to a safer camp further inside Thailand. The men opened fire on the refugees, killing the
Thai truck driver and two women. The Thai Foreign Ministry and local regional
army commanders issued démarches and warnings, but
the incursions continued. Two refugee camps, which housed nearly 6,000
refugees, were razed in March. In the northern town of Mae Sai, which was also a cause of Thai-Burmese friction, and
where the SLORC accused Thailand of supporting retreated rebels from the MTA, a Thai citizen was shot in the back by Burmese
soldiers on April 2. The commander in chief of the Thai army, Gen. Wimol Wongwanich, made a
statement after the killing, saying that the man, Thawee,
was carrying a toy gun and he "had mental problems. The Burmese military
didn't know who he was...They performed their duty to the best of their
On May 3, 1995, three Thai Border Patrol Police were killed by DKBO troops who
attacked their house in the middle of the night.
The Thai authorities reacted to these killings of
innocent civilians, the attacks on refugees under their protection, and the constant
incursions into their territory by Burmese and DKBO soldiers by continuing to try to appease the SLORC--a strategy
which seemed only to encourage SLORC's aggression. In
a hard-hitting attack at a press conference in Rangoon on May 9, 1995, a SLORC spokesman issued a threat: "The problems that have
occurred on the Thai-Myanmar border are a consequence of Thailand having harbored...terrorists who seek to oppose Myanmar. Continued harboring of such elements will continue
to precipitate similar problems." Six
days later, Thai troops raided some of the Karen refugee camps, and the cache
of weapons they found was the highlight of the evening TV news. When a bomb
blast wrecked a bridge crossing the Sai river between
Tachilek (Burma) and Mae Sai
(Thailand), the Thai district chief immediately issued a statement "to
tell [the Burmese] that Thailand had nothing to do with the incident." On May
28, SLORC Secretary-1 Gen. Khin Nyunt went on
Burmese television to attack Thailand again. Criticizing Thailand for allowing MTA rebels to get medical treatment, he
said, "I would say the country on the other side did not have a neighborly
attitude like Myanmar." In
a new move which suggests an awareness of the value of trade sanctions, posters
believed to have been printed by Burmese officials were reported to have
appeared on walls in the Burmese town of Myawaddy,
urging Burmese citizens to boycott Thai goods.
Thailand has continued to support Burma diplomatically, and officials have stated that the
policy towards Burma has not changed. For example, Bangkok went along with the
decision by Brunei to invite Burma as a "guest" at the ASEAN meeting on July 29, 1995. But this support has been ignored by the
SLORC; Thailand was noticeably absent from Sr. Gen. Than Shwe's itinerary when he
toured ASEAN countries for the first time in June 1995. This followed the
indefinite postponement of a planned visit to Thailand by Gen. Khin Nyunt in January. The SLORC seems set to
continue pushing Thailand, demanding more cooperation in their war against the
ethnic rebels, insisting that refugees are returned to Burma, and at the same time threatening further aggression.
A press release issued by the KNPP on June 28, announcing that the SLORC was
breaking the terms of their cease-fire, said
that the SLORC officials had told them that the reason for the build up of
troops in their area was that "the national election in Thailand was about
to take place, and that SLORC foresaw troubles along the border once the
election was over. As a result...it needed to move troops to the border for the
security of the state." As of July 1995 there were at least 20,000 Burmese
troops in position along the Thai border. In some areas, as in the south
where the KNU Fourth and Sixth brigades are active, the rebel armies still act
as a buffer, but increasingly SLORC is taking up positions on Thailand's border. In response, Thailand has posted more troops along the border, especially
along the Mae Sot - Mae Sariang road where many of
the incursions took place. On July 2, 1995 Thailand elected a new coalition government, which will be led
by Banharn Silpa-archa of
the Chart Thai party. Increased pressure on this new government could
produce a new, tougher policy towards Burma.
Meanwhile, other ASEAN countries are capitalizing on Thailand's fall from grace and have dramatically increased
their investment in Burma over the past six months. When he visited Jakarta in June 1995, Than Shwe obtained a commitment from
President Suharto to help develop Burma's natural gas resources and to establish an agreement
on investment guarantees. Indonesia also pledged to support SLORC in its bid to gain
membership in ASEAN. In Singapore, Than Shwe signed an agreement to boost agribusiness
and tourism, and a memorandum of understanding was signed awarding to a
Singaporean firm a contract for a $360 million feasibility study for an
international airport in Mandalay.
(The Chinese government lost out on its bid for the project.) According
to Burma's foreign minister, the subject of Aung San Suu Kyi's detention did not come up in the talks between Than
Shwe and Prime Minister Goh Chok
The trade and investment deals that ASEAN countries
have signed, especially since January 1995, are proof that at least one of the
aims of their "constructive engagement" policy is working. However,
the policy is also intended to lead to political change and
basic improvements in human rights conditions. On this level, the policy
has failed miserably. After six years of engagement, it is now time for Burma's neighbors to set down some clear goals which would
enable them to show that their policy is not just based on economic
expediency. The release of Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi was heralded by Thailand as indicating the success of constructive
engagement. "Certainly the release responded to the pervasive effort
on the part of the ASEAN organization to pursue constructive engagement,"
said acting Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan. But there is no indication yet that the overall human
rights situation will improve.
Japan's policy towards Burma has grown steadily warmer since December 1994. But
the Japanese government is quick to point out that it still maintains a
critical attitude and is attempting, through increased diplomatic contact and
aid incentives, to bring about improvements in human rights and democratization
in Burma. On paper, this policy is not unlike those of the
European Union and Australia. However, the main difference is that whereas other
countries have offered the possibility of increased assistance, Japan has actually given it; and whereas other countries make their condemnations of human rights violations
more loudly and more regularly, Japan favors quiet diplomacy.
Japan suspended all new Official Development Assistance
(ODA) to Burma following the 1988 crackdown. But pressure from
the Japanese business community has been growing
to resume ODA, and now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, that pressure
is likely to increase. The powerful Japanese business organization
Keidanren (Federation of Economic Organizations) set up a "study
group" in January 1995 to examine aid policies and assess the prospects
for economic cooperation with Burma , following a trade mission it sent to Burma in June 1994. A number of Japanese
trading and construction companies have sent their own missions to Burma. In February 1995,
Marubeni became the first Japanese trading company to sign a broad
agreement with SLORC to promote joint ventures, act as a coordinator for
various Burmese infrastructure projects, and assist with development of the
oil, steel and gas industries.
On March 18, 1995—as the SLORC-backed DKBO incursions into Thailand were at their height—Japan announced an agreement
to give Burma an $11 million grant for "agricultural
justified the decision on the grounds that the funds were to be used for
humanitarian purposes to increase food production; also, that the grant was
intended as a positive signal to "help
promote the country's pro-democracy movements and human rights improvement
efforts." Japan emphasized that a resumption of
ODA loans was not "imminent." While
in Rangoon in April, Deputy Foreign
Minister for Political Affairs Hiroshi Fukada urged
the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but his appeals were rebuffed by Gen.
At the same time, Japan also granted Burma debt relief worth $4 million. U.S. government officials denounced the move, calling it
Japan has supported the donors' consensus at the World Bank
maintaining a ban on international development loans to Burma imposed since 1988.
Daw Suu's release was
immediately welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi
Murayama, who added, "I hope democratization
will proceed further." 
Foreign Minister Yohei
Kono announced that Tokyo was eager to begin
discussions with SLORC regarding resumption of ODA "once they [Burma] are
ready to do so," and later said he would visit Burma soon -- the highest
ranking Japanese official to go to Rangoon since 1988. Foreign Ministry
officials indicated that high priority ODA projects being considered include a $287 million expansion of the Rangoon airport and aid to Burma's telecommunications system. On July 14, a foreign ministry official said that full-scale ODA
would not be resumed at least until a specific timetable is announced for transferring
power from the current military government to a democracy. But in
the meantime, some additional grant aid would likely be extended to reward
SLORC for Daw Suu's release.
It remains to be seen how energetically the Japanese
government will continue to push SLORC for further, meaningful change and
whether any new economic assistance will be linked to specific human rights
improvements. As a leading power in the region, Japan's policy towards Burma is crucial if consensus among the international
community is to be maintained.
American policy towards Burma has remained in a virtual state of limbo since Deputy
Assistant Secretary Tom Hubbard's visit to Rangoon in October 1994, except in the area of anti-narcotics
In the weeks leading up to Aung San Suu Kyi's release, the Clinton administration faced growing
Congressional pressure to respond to the "further deterioration of human
rights in Burma," as described by sixty-one members of the House of
Representatives in a letter to President Clinton on June 1, 1995. The
members urged Clinton "to intensify the current economic sanctions by
discouraging new, private U.S. investments in Burma," acknowledging that to be effective such as policy
should be coordinated with U.S. allies. But the Administration seemed
extremely reluctant to enact such a policy on its own initiative.
Despite the lack of progress on human rights admitted by
Hubbard, the administration announced at a Congressional hearing on June 21, 1995 that it would reward SLORC's
cooperation in allowing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to undertake
a joint opium yield survey in December 1994 by stepping up some forms of
anti-narcotics assistance to Burma. This decision seemed to contradict the
administration's earlier statements that without progress on all three fronts –
human rights, democratization, and narcotics control – an upgrading of U.S. cooperation could not
take place. (In March 1995, the administration again had denied
counter-narcotics certification to Burma, as it had every
year since 1989.) The announcement capped a prolonged interagency
process in which the DEA, the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs bureau at the State Department, and the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy had argued for
substantially increased anti-narcotics assistance, primarily aimed at curbing
heroin production and trafficking. According to the State Department,
heroin production in Burma has nearly tripled since SLORC took power in
In the end, the administration attempted to fashion a
"compromise" between its human rights and counter-narcotics policies,
saying it would hold discussions with
SLORC officials on drug policies, provide in-country training to SLORC
anti-drug enforcement units, exchange intelligence information (especially to
assist SLORC's offensive against Khun
Sa), and increase funding for the U.N. Drug Control Program's activities in
ethnically-controlled areas of Burma. Initial Congressional
reaction was negative. The House of Representatives firmly rejected the
administration's compromise by adopting, by a
decisive 359-38 vote, an amendment to the 1996 financial year
appropriations bill prohibiting counter-narcotics funds to Burma and any increased cooperation on drugs. As of
mid-July, the Senate had yet to consider any appropriations legislation.
The administration reacted cautiously to word of Aung
San Suu Kyi's release. President Clinton issued
a statement welcoming the news but expressing "concern about a number of
serious and unresolved human rights problems in Burma, including the continued detention of other political
opponents, the failure to permit the Red Cross to visit prisoners, and the
ongoing military campaign against a number of ethnic groups." When
asked if the U.S. would somehow reciprocate, in line with the message delivered
in Rangoon by Assistant Secretary Hubbard, the State Department refused to
comment, other than to say that before any decision was made, "we're going
to have to ascertain to our satisfaction that the conditions of her release are consistent...with a genuine effort to improve the
political situation in Burma and to permit a much greater measure of political
Those countries in favor of increasing engagement in Burma, including ASEAN and Japan, express the hope that economic development will
eventually lead to political change. However, neither investment nor
trade is likely to lead to the development of civil society in Burma so long as the SLORC sees Aung San Suu Kyi and
independent organizations of students, workers, professionals, and Christian
communities as threats and prevents them from functioning through draconian
laws and arbitrary detention orders. Moreover, with the dramatic increase in military
personnel under SLORC from 180,000 in 1988 to more than 300,000 as of July
1995, and an administrative system based on a military command structure which
allows for little or no initiative at the local level, the chances are slim
that something approaching independent institutions could emerge as a natural
outcome of economic growth. To the contrary: greater trade and investment
seem only to be encouraging Burma's generals to believe they can resist
pressure for basic reforms, as they concentrate on attracting foreign
investment to sign joint venture deals with companies, banks and ministries in
which the military owns the greatest share. Fundamental improvements in
human rights – including an end to egregious abuses such as forced labor and portering, and protection of basic freedoms of assembly,
press and association – are essential if Burma is going to be able to achieve sustainable growth and
The SLORC's continued
violations of international law and its refusal to fulfill U.N. resolutions
should not be tolerated by the international community. But unless firm
steps are taken to back up the U.N.'s resolutions and various governments'
diplomatic appeals to Burma, massive human rights violations are likely to continue.
Human Rights Watch recommends:
To the State Law and Order Restoration
Burma should immediately and
unconditionally release all political prisoners.
Burma should allow those meeting with Aung San
Suu Kyi, including her party's leading members and supporters, to freely
associate with her without suffering reprisals, and the government should take
no action to detain, harass or punish Burmese citizens seeking to peacefully
exercise their internationally-guaranteed rights of freedom of association,
expression and assembly.
All laws which prohibit freedom of association,
expression and the right of citizens to participate freely in the political
live of the country must be repealed or reformed to bring them into line with
international standards. This includes SLORC Orders 2/88, 4/91, 10/91, 1950
Emergency Provisions Act, 1957 Unlawful Associations Act, 1962 Printers' and
Publishers' Registration Act, 1975 State Protection Law and the 1908 Villages and
Towns Act (which permits village councils to order civilians to work as forced
Burma should resume negotiations with the International
Committee of the Red Cross and sign a memorandum providing regular,
confidential access to prisoners.
Burma should take immediate steps to comply with
the U.N. Economic and Social Council's resolution of March 8, 1995
(E/CN.4/1995/L1.01) and the U.N. General Assembly resolution of December 2,
1994 (A/C.3/49/L.43), especially "to put an end to violations of the right
to life and the integrity of the human being, to put an end to torture, abuse
of women and forced labor, to enforced displacements of the population and to
enforced disappearance and summary execution" and "to allow all
citizens to participate freely in the political process."
Burma should meet without exception its obligations under
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The SLORC has a duty not only to
protect civilians from violations of Common Article 3 but also to investigate,
prosecute and punish government agents responsible
for violations, including summary executions, cruel treatment and torture, and
attacks against civilian populations, especially those populations which have
taken refuge in other countries.
In accordance with the International Labor
Organization convention, the practice of forced labor and forced portering should be stopped immediately, and those found
recruiting or employing villagers and others for this purpose should be
prosecuted and punished.
Burma should review its 1982 Citizenship Law and bring it
into line with international standards in order to protect the
internationally-guaranteed rights of ethnic minorities.
To the International Community
The international community should closely
monitor developments triggered by Aung San Suu Kyi's
release and should respond immediately to any attempts by SLORC to
restrict her movements or activities, or to punish or detain her supporters solely
because of their peaceful activities. Members of the U.N. Human Rights
Commission should consider dispatching the Special Rapporteur on Burma to visit the country as soon as possible, to assess
recent developments and urge compliance with the commission's
recommendations. The Rapporteur should also explore the possibility of posting a staff person from the U.N. Centre for Human
Rights in an office in Rangoon to act as an ongoing monitoring presence, reporting
directly to the Special Rapporteur.
Governments should consider responding to the
release of Aung San Suu Kyi by establishing
direct, ongoing contact with her in order to discuss the human rights situation
in Burma, and by engaging in dialogue with SLORC about what
steps they now intend to take, to implement the other key provisions of the
United Nations's resolutions. In any contacts
with SLORC, governments should indicate their strong support for the efforts of the U.N. secretary-general, and their
expectations that talks with his representatives will lead to some tangible
results before the next session of the U.N. General Assembly when he will
present a report.
At the ASEAN
meetings in Brunei beginning on July 29, 1995, Burma should be urged to undertake basic human rights
reforms to follow on Daw Suu's release. As essential
first steps, the ASEAN governments and dialogue partners should urge SLORC to
release all detained Members of Parliament, to permit the International
Committee of the Red Cross confidential access to prisoners, and to repeal repressive laws (outlined above). In
addition, the members of ASEAN should indicate that compliance with the U.N.'s
key recommendations is a necessary prerequisite
for any consideration of Burma's admission as a member of ASEAN.
China should be stigmatized for its role as Burma's leading arms supplier. During bilateral discussions
with the Chinese foreign minister at the ASEAN conference in Brunei, governments should express concern about China's arms transfers and ask for an accounting of arms
supplied to the SLORC. For example, Japan should call on China to publicly reveal and explain the details of its
arms supplies to Burma. It should take such action in accordance with provisions in its
ODA Charter which stipulate that Tokyo will "pay full attention" to the export and
import of arms by ODA-recipient countries. (Japan is currently China's number one aid donor, providing $1.3 billion in
loans in 1993, and has officially sought greater transparency in China's military affairs.)
Under no circumstances should the World Bank,
Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund or Burma's key donors
resume bilateral or multilateral economic assistance – including debt relief –
until and unless basic human rights are restored and can be monitored, and
steps are taken to implement the results of the 1990 elections.
The Chairman's Statement at the G-7 summit in
Halifax, Nova Scotia issued on June 17, 1995 called on Burma to"release Aung San Suu Kyi and other political
prisoners, without conditions, and to engage in a dialogue of reconciliation
aimed at the full and early realization of democracy and national
unity." The World Bank donors should issue a statement as soon as possible reiterating these basic concerns
in the context of the bank's "good governance" policy and its
inability to fund viable development in Burma under current conditions.
The International Labor Organization should
initiate a commission of inquiry, under Article
26 of the ILO Constitution, into Burma's compliance with the ILO convention on forced labor.
Such a commission should be established once a complaint has been filed by a
member state that is also a party to the convention.
The ILO member states should then press the SLORC to give its fullest
cooperation to the commission of inquiry, including unrestricted access to
areas to Burma to conduct any on-site investigations.
Until there are verifiable guarantees that
forced labor and forced portering have ceased, investment and export credits to companies seeking to
operate in Burma should not be renewed. Those guarantees must include
regular access by international human rights organizations. Governments should
investigate possible cooperation between their nations'
companies operating in Burma and projects using forced labor. There should be a
freeze on all trade delegations to and from Burma, and a ban on further corporate investment until and
unless forced labor in all forms (including forced portering)
There should be no increased anti-narcotics
assistance or cooperation extended to the SLORC until there is a genuine
improvement in the overall human rights situation and an end to abuses
committed against ethnic minorities.
LISTING OF EUROPEAN COMPANIES DOING BUSINESS IN BURMA
Date of entry
Type of Business
Railways upgrade, funded by UNDP
Drilling contractor for Total
concrete pipe parts
Banque Nationale de Paris
Tourism: luxury cruise ships
Elysee Investissements SA
Industry: wood production factory, j/v Myanmar
and gas Industry services
and gas Industry services
of concrete pipe plant
j/v with MEHB for $1.8million for Siemens
teak imports to Germany
rhesus monkeys for export (for experimentation)
produce beer through their Singaporean subsidiary
Industries Nacionias Defensa
cannons for patrol boats
FFV (via Chartered Industries)
Nobel Industries (via Allied Ordnance, Singapore)
gems, diamonds, pearls.
two "British Weeks" to promote trade and culture
supply and drainage for Rangoon.
Cable and Wireless (via Asia
breeding (ten year contract)
Eastern and Oriental Express Group
Tourism: j/v with MEHB for tourism services
and gas blocks in Martaban and Tenasserim, j/v
with Total, Unocal, PTTE (Thailand), MOGE (Burma)
"British Week" in 1995
PARTIAL LISTING OF UNITED STATES
COMPANIES DOING BUSINESS IN BURMA
Type of Industry
America World Export Company
auto parts, farming implements
Tourism: American Express Card agreement
Apex Development Co., Ltd.
Atlantic Richfield (ARCO)
Caltex Petroleum (Chevron/Texaco)
and Gas: Industry services
Eastman Kodak (via Consumer Imaging Markets (CIM) in
four Kodak Express Color Labs in Rangoon
General Electric (via G.E. Thailand)
planning new markets
and Gas: industry services
and Gas: industry services
Interdigital Communications Corp.
ITT Sheraton (via Bangkok)
Miriam Marshall Associates
Fisheries: $US 74 million
Myanmar Connection Resorts, Ltd
P.A.E. (via Thailand and Singapore subsidiaries)
and Gas: industry services
Pan America Pharmaceutical, Ltd.
general trading, wood base products
and Gas: Drilling for, BHO, Idemitzu, Yukong
35% share bottling plant, $US 1 million
Phoenix Engineering and Supply, Inc. (Chantha
Construction & Services Co., Ltd.)
Raytheon (via Seismograph Services, UK)
and Gas: Industry services
and Gas: Industry services
Custom sculpture and furniture
and Gas: 50% Premier-UK
blocks M-13 & 14
and Gas: share Premier-UK
Textron (via Bell Helicopter, Singapore)
proposed repair facility
proposed Bell 206L-3 helicopters
services to Burma. Local partner is Wah
Wah Pte. Ltd.
and Gas: 47.5% share Total
blocks M-5 & 6 oil and gas concession pipeline.
Tours - tourism (Rangoon office only)
Cunard Ships Hotel Resort Co.
Ships: MS Sea Goddess
and MS Mermoz (Rangoon office only)
Resevior Engineers (Rangoon office only)
Marketing Consumer Goods (Rangoon office only)
B.J. Service International
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Baker Hughes Inteq
(Eastman Christensen Co)
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Devon (Myanmar) International
and Gas: Industry services
(Rangoon office only)
Dowell Schlumberger Eastern
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Drilling Fluids, Inc (Milpark
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Geco Geophysical Co., Ltd. (Geco-Prakler)
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Halliburton Geophysical Services
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Pratt Ryan Oilfield Services Pte.
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Smith International, Inc.
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
Western Atlas International, Inc.
and Gas: Industry services (Rangoon office only)
(Rangoon office only)
and Gas: Industry Service
Message to the international community from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service TV, July 12, 1995.
The SLORC held the country in the balance between greater political freedom and
further repression once before when it allowed a national election to be held
in May 1990. Clearly expecting to win in the election, they did not disrupt it,
but on realizing the scale of their defeat, they refused to hand over power and
arrested many of the victors.
Brig. Gen David Abel, quoted by Kyodo news agency (Japan),
June 10, 1995.
Kyodo news agency, July 7, 1995.
The speech was also reported in full in The New Light of Myanmar, the
Burmese government paper, on July 8 and 9, 1995.
Written under the pen name "Nawarhta," The
New Light of Myanmar, July 8, 1995.
On June 20, 1995, the ICRC
issued a press release stating that they would be closing their office in Burma
having failed "to persuade the SLORC to reconsider its
position"--that is, having failed to obtain an agreement from SLORC to
visit prisons regularly and with the guarantees its work requires.
See Human Rights Watch/Asia,"Burma: Abuses Linked to
the Fall of Manerplaw,"
Vol. 7, No.5 (New York: Human
Rights Watch), March 27, 1995.
the full text of the recommendations, see Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Abuses
Linked to the Fall of Manerplaw."
Figures published by the Burmese government on March 9, 1995, which show all
investment in Burma since 1989, reveal France as the largest investor
(equivalent to U.S. $1.05 billion), followed by Singapore ($293.4 million),
Thailand ($265 million), the U.S. ($203 million) and Japan ($101 million).
Total SA, an oil company in which the French government and state-owned
enterprises own 25 percent of the voting rights,
accounts for almost all French investment. Singapore's
investment increased on June 4, with the signing of a $500 million contract to
build a new airport in Mandalay.
The secretary-general's representative is expected to visit Rangoon
again soon to follow up talks begun in November 1994.
Prof. Yozo Yokota,
the Special Rapporteur for Burma,
last visited the country in November 1994. His mandate was continued by
the commission at its March 1995 meeting.
11See Asia Watch, "Worsening Repression," March 1990; Asia
Watch, Human Rights in Burma (Myanmar) May 1990; Asia Watch,
"Burma: Post-Election Abuses," August 1990; Asia Watch, "Burma:
Time for Sanctions," February 1991; Asia Watch, "Human Rights Abuses
in Burma (Myanmar) in 1991," Vol.4, No.3, January 1992; Asia Watch,
"Burma: Rape, Forced Labor and Religious Persecution in Northern Arakan," Vol.4, No.1, May 1992; Asia Watch,
"Changes in Burma?," Vol.4, No.24, September 1992; Human Rights
Watch/Asia, "The Mon: Persecuted in Burma, Forced Back from
Thailand," Vol.6, No.14, December 1994; Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Burma:
Abuses Linked to the Fall of Manerplaw," Vol.7,
No.5, March 1995, (New York: Human Rights Watch).
These are the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination; the Special Rapporteur Concerning
Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions; the Special Rapporteur on
Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the
Special Rapporteur Concerning Persons Subjected to any Form of Detention or
Imprisonment; and the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and Fundamental
In November 1993, the special rapporteur met with Dr.
Aung Khin Sint, who was arrested in August 1993. While
the interview was conducted with prison officials present, it was apparent that
Aung Khin Sint had not been subjected to
torture. In February 1994, Congressman Richardson met with Dr. Thida, among others, who was
arrested in August 1993. All four prisoners he met were in poor health as a
result of conditions in the prison, but Dr. Thida had
not been subjected to torture during interrogation.
Human Rights Watch/Asia has been denied access to Burma,
but we interviewed refugees in neighboring
countries, and receive other reports from independent sources within Burma.
The obvious risks mean that all sources remain anonymous.
diplomat talking about the arrest of the National League for Democracy member
of parliament, seventy-seven-year-old U Kyi Maung and three others on June 2,
quoted by Reuters on June 7, 1995. The men were released on June 8.
Article 9 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
states: "Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be
brought promptly before a judge or other offices...and shall be entitled to
trial within a reasonable time or to release."
Article 4 of the ICCPR specifies which articles of the convention are not derogable during times of public emergency. This includes
Article 15, which prohibits the retroactive application of new or altered laws
Yozo Yokota, "Final Report on the Situation of
Human Rights in Myanmar,"
(Geneva: United Nations Commission
on Human Rights), February 23, 1995.
The laws most commonly used to detain political activists are the 1950
Emergency Provisions Act, which allows for imprisonment for up to seven years
of any one who "infringes upon the integrity, health, conduct and respect
of state or military organizations...or spreads false news about the government";
the 1957 Unlawful Associations Act, which allows for imprisonment of up to five
years for anyone has been a member of, or assisted, any association "(a)
which encourages or aids persons to commit acts of violence or
intimidation...or (b) which has been declared unlawful by the President";
Sections 121, 122-1 and 124 of the 1957 Penal Code, which allow for death, life
or seven years' imprisonment for anyone committing high treason, or misprision
of high treason; the 1962 Printers' and Publishers' Registration Act (amended
in 1989) which allows for imprisonment for up to five years for anyone with a
permit for printing who publishes material which "opposes the
SLORC...insults, slanders or attempts to divide the Defense Forces;" and
the 1975 State Protection Law.
Such rights are protected under Articles 19, 22 and 25 of the ICCPR.
 BBC World Service, July 13, 1995. Ms. Medert added that she hoped
the release of Aung San Suu Kyi might mean that the SLORC would reconsider its
position and allow the ICRC access to prisons in Burma.
Human Rights Watch/Asia is particularly concerned about the lawyer U Nay Min,
who was arrested for giving information to the BBC in November 1988. Nay Min
was sentenced to fourteen years in jail and was reported to have been badly
beaten at the time of his arrest and during a hunger strike at Rangoon's
Insein jail in 1991. His health remains poor.
This section states that "the President may at any time, without
conditions or upon any conditions which the person sentenced to accepts,
suspend the execution of his sentence or remit the whole or any part of the
punishment to which he has been sentenced."
Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone
is entitled in full equality to a fair public hearing by an independent and
impartial tribunal". See Amnesty International, "Myanmar
political trials," ASA 16/06/91,
During the 1988 demonstrations, U Nu claimed that
since the coup of 1962 was an illegal seizure of power, he was still prime
minister. He was arrested soon after the military regained their authority in
September 1989 and held under house arrest until 1992. U Nu
was eighty-two years old.
They are: Ma Moe Kalayar, Ma Aye Moe, Ma Cho Nwe Oo, Ko
Moe Maung Maung, Ko Moe Myat Thu, Ko Maung Oo, Ko Aung Zeya, Ko
Tin Than Oo and Ko Hteik.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Burma's
report of February 1995 lists seventy-eight people released under Order 11/92
who had been arrested for being in contact with the Karen National Union (KNU)
under the terms of this law. Most of these were villagers from the Irrawaddy Delta area arrested in mass round-ups after a KNU
offensive in November 1991.
SLORC Notification 2/91, May 14, 1991. The groups
National Democratic Army (Kokang); Myanmar Solidarity
Democracy Alliance (Wa, former members of the
Communist Party of Burma cadres); National Democracy Alliance Army (Shan); Shan
State Army; New Democratic Army (Kachin, former
Communist Party of Burma cadres); Kachin Defense Army
(KIO's Fourth Brigade); Pao
National Organization; Palaung State Liberation
Many parties were declared illegal before the election, in which twenty-seven
parties won seats. By 1992 all but seven of these parties had been declared
SLORC Announcement No. 1/90, July 27,
1990. No evidence was ever given to support their claim that this
was the wish of the elected representatives.
See Amnesty International, "Myanmar:
No Law At All: Human Rights Violations under Military
Rule," ASA 16/11/93 (London:
Amnesty International), November 1992.
Ohn Kyaing, MP-elect for
Mandalay Southeast-2; U Tin Htut, MP-elect for
Einme-1; U Win Hlaing, MP-elect for Tatkon-2; Saw Naing Naing, MP-elect for Pazundaung; U Tin Aung Aung,
MP-elect for Mandalay Northwest-1; Dr. Zaw Myint Aung, MP-elect for Amarapura-1; Dr. Myint Aung, MP-elect for Kanbalu-2; U Kyi Myint, MP-elect for Latha ; Dr. Zaw Myint, MP-elect for
Henzada-2; U Mya Win, MP-elect for Ingapu-1; U Hla Than, MP-elect for Coco Islands; U Tin Soe, MP-elect for Kyauktada; U
Saw Win, MP-elect for Htilin; U Hla
Tun, MP-elect for Kyimyindine
; U Khin Maung Swe (re-arrested August 1994); U Sein Hla Oo (re-arrested August 1994)
Radio Rangoon, July 10, 1991.
SLORC Order 10/91, Radio Rangoon,
July 10, 1991. Under this
amendment, people convicted of offenses other than moral turpitude and breaches
of law and order are prevented from standing for election for ten years.
The others are: Dr. Khin Zaw Win, Daw San San Nwe and her daughter, Ma Myat Moe Moe Tun.
Kyodo news agency, June 7, 1995.
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Burma,"Report on the Situation..." February
1995, paragraph 149.
SLORC Order 13/02, "The Formation of the Commission for Holding the
National Convention," October 2,
The NCCC is led by its chairman, Maj. Gen. Myo Nyunt (member of the SLORC,
minister for religious affairs and Rangoon divisional commander); and vice-chairmen Maj. Gen. Maung Thint
(SLORC member and minister for border areas); Brig. Gen. Myo Thant (SLORC member) and Brig. Gen Aung Thein
(SLORC member and secretary of the defense services public relations and
See U.N. Special Rapporteur, "Report on the Situation..." February
1995, p. 32.
In September 1992, paragraph (a) of SLORC Order 2/88, which established a
nationwide curfew from 11P.M. to 4A.M..; Order 1/89 which granted martial law
powers to regional commanders; and Order 2/89 relating to procedures for
military tribunals were all "deleted." As far as Human Rights
Watch/Asia is aware, no other SLORC Orders have been officially revoked.
They were sentenced under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act and the Printers
and Publishers Law. Dr. Aung Khin Sint was released
on February 4, 1995 under
Section 401(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedures.
Personal communication to Human Rights Watch/Asia, April 1994.
Censorship laws in Burma
mean that there is no free press. See Article 19, "Censorship
Prevails: Political Deadlock and Economic Transition in Burma,"
(London: Article 19) March 1995.
New Light of Myanmar,
Rangoon. April 7, 1995.
These groups are minorities in the seven ethnic states and the seven ethnic
Burman divisions. ("Burmese refers to all the citizens of the country of Burma
or the languages of the dominant ethnic "Burman" population.)
The United Wa State Party, the Shan State Kokang
Democratic Party, the Shan National League for Democracy and the National
League for Democracy were particularly outspoken. An NLD representative, U Khin
Maung, said "it is not appropriate for this National Convention to
prescribe self-administered areas without soliciting the wishes of the local
people of the regions concerned." Rangoon
Radio, March 30, 1995.
Between 1961 and 1969 Burmese Radio had a "Rohingya"
program, which was stopped "in the interests of national
unity." In 1991 some 270,000 Rohingyas
fled from Arakan to Bangladesh
with reports of appalling abuses by the Burmese army, including killings and
rape. In June 1995 most had been repatriated and only 50,000 remained in
Radio Rangoon, September 15, 1994. Quoted in
the BBC Survey of World Broadcasts (SWB).
 BBC World Service, January 18, 1994.
Quoted by SLORC Secretary-1 Khin Nyunt in a speech given in his role as
chairman of the Myanmar Education Committee at a "refresher" course
for primary school teachers, Rangoon Radio, April 2, 1995.
Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw, quoted in U.N. Special
Rapporteur "Report on the Situation...," February 1995.
Government statement of May 1993, quoted in ILO "Report of the Committee
of Experts," APPL\149-3.E95 (Geneva:
International Labor Organization) June 1995.
Ibid. The SLORC also said that it had generously given a total of 20
million kyats to the volunteers: less than 25 kyats per person, roughly U.S.
$0.20 at the market rate of exchange.
See Human Rights Watch/Asia "Burma:
Abuses Linked to..." March 1995; "The
Mon..." December 1994; "Burma:
Rape, Forced Labor..." May, 1992, "Human Rights in Burma",
For a full discussion of the application of ILO Convention 29 in Burma,
see Human Rights Watch/Asia, "The Mon..."
International Labour Organization, "Report of the Committee set up to consider
the representation made by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
under article 24 of the ILO Constitution alleging non-observance by Myanmar of
the Forced Labor Convention, 1930 (No. 29)" (Geneva: International Labour
Organization) November 7, 1994.
Article reporting a speech by Lt. Gen. Myo Nyunt, SLORC member and minister for
religious affairs, speaking at a Buddhist novitiation
ceremony for orphans in the Myanma Alin, the Burmese language government-controlled
newspaper, April 10, 1995.
This part of the story was not reproduced in the English-language version, The
New Light of Myanmar.
See Martin Smith, Ethnic Groups in Burma
(London: Anti-Slavery International),
1994; Bertil Lintner,
Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948 (Boulder,
Angelo Vidal d'Almeida Ribeiro,
"Report of the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance," (Geneva:
United Nations) January 6, 1993.
There is a Department for Propagation and Promotion of the Sasana
(faith) to which both laymen and monks can apply to join these missionary
course. The applications are processed through the township Law and Order
Article in the New Light of Myanmar,
May 12, 1995.
This population in the main came to Burma
in the (pre-partition) colonial period, encouraged
by British officials who needed them to run the administration. They were thus
seen by many Burmese as tools of the British government, and in the 1930s and
1940s there were several anti-Indian riots.
The 1982 Nationalities Act requires that to be full citizen a person must prove
family residency in Burma,
for all ancestors, since 1826.
See Human Rights Watch/Asia "Burma:
Abuses Linked to...," p. 8.
It should be noted that while there is a significant population of Chinese
Muslims, known as "Panthays," they do not suffer the same discriminatory policies.
A 1994 article noted that while the SLORC was pulling down an
"Indian" mosque in Myawaddy, it was
supporting the construction of a new Panthay mosque
in Tachilek. Wilson and Henley, "The SLORC and
Islam," Bangkok Post,
September 4, 1995.
These incidents were also reported by the Special Rapporteur to Burma
in his January 1995 report, p.28.
The name "Rohingya" is a term used by some,
but not all, Muslims from the Arakan
State to distinguish themselves as
a distinct ethnic group. Most of the Muslims in the two most westerly
townships, Maungdaw and Buthidaung,
are Rohingyas (roughly 500,000).
UNHCR press office, "Return to Myanmar"
Information Bulletin ,
(Geneva: UNHCR) June 1995
Refugees reported that the soldiers used racist terms of abuse and often told
them to "go back to your own country." See Asia
Rape, Forced Labor...," May 1992 and Amnesty International, "Human
Rights Violations against Muslims...," May 1992.
The military present in Arakan is the army
supplemented by the "Na Sa Ka," a Burmese
acronym for the border patrol police. There are at least 9,000 Na Sa Ka in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.
Union of Myanmar,
Department of Immigration and Manpower, December 11, 1992.
The figures are not broken down into religious groups, but evidence from the
refugees suggest that very few Rohingyas
had ever had ID cards.
See Prof. Yokota, "Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar"
E/CN.4/1993/37, (Geneva: UN ECOSOC)
February 17, 1993.
statement by the Special Rapporteur" February 23, 1995.
See Human Rights Watch/Asia, "The Mon..." for a discussion of the
history of the NMSP cease-fire negotiations.
See Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Burma:
Abuses Linked to..."; also Amnesty
International, "No Place to Hide".
See Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Burma:
Abuses Linked to..." for a full discussion of the application of the
Geneva Conventions and the rules of war in the Burmese context.
Myawaddy Radio which began transmission in December
1994 in the Karen area, was very active in SLORC's propaganda war against the KNU. On March 27, 1995, a sister television
station, Myawaddy TV, was also established to be the
voice of the armed forces.
See Human Rights Watch/Asia, "Burma:
Abuses Linked to..."
Amnesty International, "Myanmar:
No Place to Hide" ASA 16/1/95 (London:
Amnesty International), June 6, 1995.
This report also documents in detail the attacks by the DKBO on refugee camps
Reuters, June 13, 1995.
Leaflets published by the DKBO called for all Buddhist Karen "to rise up
against the Christian leaders," suggesting that Christians would not be
Yindee Letcharoenchok, The Nation (Bangkok),
May 1, 1995.
 BBC World Service, June 16, 1995.
See Amnesty International, "No Law At All..."
 BBC World Service, January 9, 1995.
Quoted in the BBC SWB, May 6, 1995.
A State Department spokeswoman told reporters, "We view [the closure of
refineries] as a positive development, and would welcome similar developments
that might result from the current offensive." Reuters, April 10, 1995. Other reports claim
that it was pressure from China which was decisive in getting the SLORC to
attack Khun Sa, for example an interview with Yunnanese officials in The Vancouver Sun,
March 20, 1995.
Refusing to admit refugees is tantamount to making them return, and is
therefore a violation of the principle of non-refoulement,
as expressed in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of
Refugees. While Thailand has not ratified this convention, the principle of
non-refoulement is part of customary international
Bangkok Post, March 17, 1995.
Because of the difficulties of access to these people, who were in great need
of humanitarian aid, the aid worker wishes to remain anonymous.
Reuters, "Fear of Rangoon forces drives Shan into Thailand." March
This first mission was conducted under the U.N.'s 1503 Procedure and the report
was not made public. Mrs. Sadako Ogata had made the
first mission under this procedure in 1990.
See Professor Yokota, " Report on the Situation
of Human Rights in Myanmar",
E/CN.4/1995/65 (New York: United
Nations), January 12, 1995
U.N. General Assembly Third Committee Resolution "Situation of Human
Rights in Myanmar" A/C.3/49/197 (New York: United Nations), December 23,
This was the second mission to Burma by a representative of the
secretary-general, the first having been in November 1994.
U.N. Economic and Social Council, "Report of the Secretary General on the
Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar," E/CN.4/1995/150 (Geneva: United
Nations), February 21, 1995.
Press statement by secretary-general Boutros
Boutros-Ghali, July 11, 1995.
Trade between Burma and China is officially valued at $550 million annually,
but thought to be at least double that, according to Wang Jun-fu, China
Association for International Friendly Contact, quoted in Radio Australia, June
This comprised a $400 million contract to buy helicopters, armored vehicles,
assault rifles, parachutes and patrol boats and a $40 million interest-free
loan to buy Chinese naval vessels. Jane's Defense Weekly, November
Burmese TV, December 27, 1994.
Reuters, December 28, 1994.
Reuters, March 27, 1995. This is believed to have been the first time that any
foreign army has been present at Burma's Armed Forces Day.
"SLORC is known to be elated at last week's decision by Washington to
uncouple human rights from trade in renewing China's MFN status. The
generals in Rangoon are expected to
pursue a similar diplomatic offensive to China,
dangling the carrot of its 45 million population as an
emerging Asian market." Australia Financial Review (Australia),
May 31, 1994.
Li Peng in Rangoon, Reuters December 28, 1995.
See Lintner, Burma in Revolt.
In 1967 anti-Chinese riots in Rangoon, which included attacks on the Chinese
embassy, resulted in several hundred Chinese dead and over 1,000 Chinese arrested.
This action was influential in China's decision to support the Communist Party
of Burma from 1968 - 1978.
BBC World Service, October 5, 1994.
Quoted in BBC SWB October 18, 1994.
All India Radio, quoted in BBC SWB, April 12, 1995.
"India and Burma Join to Hunt Rebels by Border," The New York
Times, June 7, 1995.
The final contract for the pipeline between the
Thai Electricity Generating Authority, the SLORC-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas
Enterprise, Total (France)
and UNOCAL (U.S.) was signed on January
28, 1995, the day after the fall of the KNU base at Manerplaw.
The Nation, Bangkok,
April 4, 1995.
Burmese TV, May 9, 1995. This contradicted previous claims by the SLORC that
they had no control over the DKBO.
The Nation, May 23, 1995.
Burmese TV, May 28, 1995.
 Reuters, July 11, 1995, Jakarta.
The Financial Times (London),
February 21, 1995.
Kyodo, March 9, 1995.
Khin Nyunt said that political prisoners are released only on the condition
they do not disturb society after their release. According to Fukada, Khin Nyunt said that
Suu Kyi "still does not fully understand the Myanmarese
situation." Jiji Press (Japan),
April 7, 1995.
Kyodo, April 5, 1995.
Kyodo, July 11, 1995
July 11, 1995
In a letter to Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO labor confederation, who
wrote to the State Department urging a trade and investment embargo against
Burma, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said on April 5, 1995,
"We have regularly explored whether there would be support for such an
embargo with our allies, and with Burma's major trading and investment partners
in Asia. We have found no interest in a U.N. embargo." In
fact, the European Parliament, on June 15, 1995, adopted a resolution calling
on the European Council and member government to "investigate possible
cooperation between companies of the European Union in Burmese projects
applying forced labor and examine the desirability of imposing economic
The Richardson-Rohrabacher amendment was voted by the House on June 28, 1995.
The Financial Times, London
July 12, 1994
Nicholas Burns, State Department Briefing, July 10, 1995.
Japan's ODA Annual Report for 1994, published in March 1995, cites the
ODA Charter in relation to China and notes that "serious concern has been
expressed internationally over its [China's] rising defense expenditures
and a trend toward the exporting and importing of arms. In light of such
developments, Japan realizes that careful consideration should be given to the
compliance of the ODA Charter's principles with regard to aid for China and has
conveyed this to China."
The Asian Development Bank is reportedly planning to send a mission to Burma in
August, 1995. The Financial Times, July 12, 1995.
of Information: Asian American Free Labor Institute, Burma Issues,
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Franklin Research and Development
Corporation, Council on Economic Priorities, New Light of Myanmar, and Burma
j/v means joint-venture.
of Information: Asian American Free Labor Institute, Burma Issues,
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Franklin Research and
Development Corporation, Council on Economic Priorities, New Light of
Myanmar, and Burma Alert!
Human Rights Watch/Asia
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978
to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human
rights in Africa, the Americas,
Asia, the Middle
East and among the signatories of the Helsinki
accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive director; Cynthia Brown is the
program director; Holly J. Burkhalter is the advocacy
director; Gara LaMarche is
the associate director; Juan E. Mendez is general counsel; and Susan Osnos is the communications director. Robert L.
Bernstein is the chair of the executive committee and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair. Its Asia division was
established in 1985 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally
recognized human rights in Asia. Sidney Jones is the executive director;
Mike Jendrzejczyk is the Washington director; Robin Munro is the Hong Kong
director; Jeannine Guthrie is NGO Liaison; Dinah PoKempner
is Counsel; Patricial Gossman
and Zunetta Liddell are research associates; Mark Girouard and Shu-Ju Ada Cheng are Luce fellows; Diana Tai-Feng Cheng and Jennifer Hyman are associates; Mickey
Spiegel is a research consultant. Andrew Nathan is chair of the advisory
committee and Orville Schell is vice chair.